Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do you have a projector and a screen?/US Suspends Largest Private Contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan for Massive Fraud.


I got a message today from Jim Fine asking if we have an LCD projector and screen to use for Friday’s talk on ISIS. Red Emma’s does not have the equipment, though the group is trying to find what is needed. Art Milholland has given me a projector, which I hope will work, but we still need a screen. Does anyone have access to such equipment? Is it possible to rent the equipment?



Arthur Keys of IRD meets with the Abdul Manaf, center, the District governor of Nawa, Afghanistan, in 2010. (photo: IRD/The Washington Post)

US Suspends Largest Private Contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan for Massive Fraud

By Scott Higham and Steven Rich, The Washington Post
27 January 15

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Monday that it has suspended one of its largest nonprofit contractors from federal work after investigators found “serious misconduct” in the nonprofit’s performance and management of taxpayer money.

For years, International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Va., served as one of USAID’s key contractors, undertaking ambitious humanitarian projects in some of the most dangerous places in the world.
The suspension comes after months of internal USAID reviews of IRD’s performance in the field and reports from the agency’s inspector general that the nonprofit allegedly mischarged millions of dollars in overhead costs. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the FBI are also investigating the organization.

“The Agency’s review revealed serious misconduct in IRD’s performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility,” USAID said in a statement Monday. “USAID has a zero tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds and will take every measure at our disposal to recover these funds.”

Since 2007, USAID has awarded more than $2.4 billion in contracts and cooperative agreements to IRD, much of it to fund stabilization and community-development projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several of those projects have been the subjects of investigations following allegations of waste and fraud.

IRD also has been criticized for providing lavish salaries and millions in bonuses to its employees, including the husband-and-wife team who ran the organization, as well as their family members. Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May.

The suspension takes effect immediately, blocking IRD from new federal contracts. The nonprofit will be permitted to complete projects that are underway.

“It is what it is, and we have to deal with it,” said Roger Ervin, who took over IRD as president six weeks ago. “I take this as an opportunity to make some changes, and many of them are already underway. I think we can show in short order that we can demonstrate that we are a good service provider for USAID, and I think we can address this pretty quickly.”

Ervin said he and other senior managers are restructuring the organization and cooperating with USAID and federal investigators. “The only way we’re going to satisfy the government is to be as transparent as possible,” he said.

Earlier this month, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to USAID questioning why IRD and another contractor continued to receive federal work in the face of the allegations.

“It is difficult to understand why USAID continues to put U.S. tax dollars and national security objectives at risk by doing business with organizations that consistently fail to meet their obligations and engage in potentially illegal and unethical activities,” Corker wrote to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
A Post analysis of federal tax forms and contracting data shows that IRD has relied on USAID for much of its funding.

Between 2007 and 2013, IRD reported revenue of a little more than $3 billion — 76 percent of it coming from USAID. At the height of its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2010, IRD reported $706 million in revenue, 83 percent of it from USAID.

Of the more than $2.4 billion in USAID funding that IRD has received since 2007, 82 percent has gone toward projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those projects were designed to rebuild war-wrecked cities and towns and construct vast networks of roads.

But the projects were difficult to execute in the field, and workers said in interviews with The Post that vast sums of money were being squandered.

IRD was founded in 1998 by Arthur B. Keys, an ordained minister, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, who is from Bosnia-Herzegovina. As the nonprofit won more federal work, salaries and bonuses at IRD began to soar.
Together, Keys and his wife earned more than $5.9 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012. Their daughter and Basaric-Keys’s brother received more than $1.3 million during that time.

In 2013, Keys was slated to receive $690,000 in compensation, plus a $900,000 contribution to his retirement account. His wife, chief of IRD’s operations, received $1.1 million in compensation, which included a $289,273 bonus.

But new managers and board members at IRD balked at the size of the payouts and demanded that the couple surrender a significant portion of the money. Aware that USAID was considering suspending IRD, the new mangers tried to reform the organization and rein in excessive compensation.

“We reviewed the totality of the compensation package, and we were not comfortable with the numbers,” said Steve Bartlett, a former congressman from Texas who joined IRD’s board last summer. “We thought it was inappropriate.”

After months of negotiations, Keys and his wife returned or forfeited $1.7 million in retirement pay and bonuses, according to the nonprofit’s 2013 tax return. Keys relinquished his claim to $590,625 in retirement money that had been set aside for him in 2012. He also forfeited $320,710 due to be deposited in his retirement account last year.

Keys’s wife returned $176,318 of a $289,273 bonus she received in 2013. She also returned $496,211 in a retirement account and $120,313 out of $121,065 in “other compensation” she collected from the nonprofit.
Keys declined to say why he and his wife agreed to forfeit the money.

“I don’t believe I can talk about that,” he said in a brief interview last week.

IRD officials declined to say how much money the nonprofit paid Keys and his wife in 2014 before they retired at the end of last summer. They said those figures will be reported to the IRS this year.
Bartlett said that the couple was “compensated for the work they did” and that “they were not provided with any bonuses.”

2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - January 29 - 31, 2015

30] Protest Saudi Arabia – Jan. 29
31] Paid sick leave hearing – Jan. 29
32] "Purgatorio: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Border" – Jan. 29
33] Annual Annapolis Summit – Jan. 30
34] Service to Justice Conference – Jan. 30 - 31
35] Vigil for peace at White House – Jan. 30
36] Silent Peace Vigil – Jan. 30
37] Degrading ISIS?? – Jan. 30
38] Ballroom Dancing – Jan. 30
39] Ready to Roll – Jan. 31
40] West Chester, PA demo – Jan. 31
41] Teach-In on Saudi human rights abuses – Jan. 31
42] Nonviolence training – Jan. 31
30] – Be at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 601 New Hampshire Ave. NW, WDC 20037, on Thurs., Jan. 29 at 5 PM and join Amnesty International and other human rights advocates to call the Saudi authorities to put a stop to any further flogging of Raif Badawi and unconditionally release him. Badawi is a Prisoner of Conscience sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes solely for encouraging free speech in Saudi Arabia on his website. On January 9, Raif received the first set of 50 painful lashes in public. The second set of 50 lashes were expected to take place the following Friday, but was twice postponed on medical grounds. Visit #FreeRaif #IStandWithRaif.

31] – On Thurs., Jan. 29 meet at 6 PM at California Tortilla, 199 E. Montgomery Ave., Rockville and at 7:30 PM go over to the Montgomery County Council, 3rd Floor Hearing Room, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville 20850, to promote sick leave. Jews for Justice says 43 million workers have no Sick Leave. See MoCo Paid Sick Days Hearing--

32] – See "Purgatorio: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Border" followed by a panel with CASA de Maryland, Esperanza Center & the Mayor's Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs on Thurs., Jan 29 at 7:30 PM at the Creative Alliance at The Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224. Tickets are $12, but members pay $9. Director Rodrigo Reyes did this 2014 film as a joint USA/Mexico funded project. This provocative essay film re-imagines the Mexico/U.S. border as a mythical place comparable to Dante’s purgatory. Leaving politics aside, he takes a fresh look at the brutal beauty of the border and the people caught in its spell.

The panel of immigration experts are Elizabeth Alex, CASA de Maryland Lead Organizer, Helany Sinkler, Esperanza Center Client Services Manager, and Catalina Rodriguez, Mayor's Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs Director. Email or 410-276-1561 ext 210.

33] – Join Marc Steiner on Fri., Jan. 30 for breakfast at 7 AM, followed by the program from 8 to 10 AM at Governor Calvert House, 58 State Circle, Annapolis, for the 12th Annual Annapolis Summit, in partnership with The Daily Record. He will interview Maryland's top political leaders about issues in the Maryland 2015 Legislative Session, including Governor-elect Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch. For information, tickets, and sponsorship opportunities, go to or contact Clare Sheehan: 443-524-8101 at

34] – On Fri., Jan. 30 from 9 AM to 5:30 PM and Sat., Jan. 31 from 9 AM to 6:30 PM at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Ave. NW, WDC 20005, attend Service to Justice Conference. There will be sessions on fundraising, self-care, creating meaningful leadership, helping clients become self-advocates, volunteering and social change, and other fascinating topics. There is a $15 registration fee, but no one will be turned away. Visit

35] – On Fri., Jan. 30 from noon to 1 PM, join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in a vigil urging the powers that be to abolish war and torture, to disarm all weapons, to end indefinite detention, to close Guantanamo, to establish justice for all and help create the Beloved Community! The vigil takes place at the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Contact Art @ or at 202-360-6416.

36] – There is usually a silent peace vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings, outside the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St. The Jan. 30 vigil will remind us that War Is Not the Answer and that there is the need to stop torture, and prosecute the torturers.

37] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore is hosting Jim and Deborah Fine who will address Why the U.S. will have difficulty “Degrading & Defeating ISIS” on Fri., Jan. 30 at 7:30 PM in the Free School Classroom, Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201. The couple recently returned from Erbil, Iraq after working there for five years with the Mennonite Central Committee. Their principal work was with refugees fleeing the various conflicts, including the Yezidis terrorized by ISIS. The Fines have also worked with the American Friends Service Committee for years in the Middle East. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at

38] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at 8 PM. Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St. Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be Jan. 30. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

39] – February 15th is the last day you can sign up through the health care marketplace for coverage that starts in 2015. Come join OFA supporters in Columbia to make sure your neighbors are covered. The Ready to Enroll event is at 5610 Cedar Lane, Columbia 21044 on Sat., Jan. 31 at 10 AM. The Affordable Care Act has already helped millions of people get coverage -- more than 9.5 million Americans have already signed up for a plan so far during this enrollment period. RSVP now to help folks in Columbia get covered:

40] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

41] – Go to the Amnesty International USA Mid-Atlantic Region, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, WDC 20003, on Sat., Jan. 31 at 1 PM for a Teach-In on Raif Badawi, Waleed Abulkhair, and the crackdown on human rights activism in Saudi Arabia. Go to

42] -- On Sat., Jan. 31 from 2 to 5:30 PM, Ray Jose and Yash Mori of United We Dream are training 25 folks from the API #blacklivesmatter DMV working group and anyone else interested in the Auditorium of St. Stephens and the Incarnation Episcopal Church. 1525 Newton St. NW, WDC. RSVP at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Published on Portside (

Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Paul Krugman

Monday, January 26, 2015
New York Times

This article was written immediately before Alexis Tsipras took office as the prime minister of Greece. For an account of the first actions of the Syriza-led coalition government, see this report [1]. -- moderator

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition, is about to become prime minister of Greece. He will be the first European leader elected on an explicit promise to challenge the austerity policies that have prevailed since 2010. And there will, of course, be many people warning him to abandon that promise, to behave “responsibly.”

So how has that responsibility thing worked out so far?

To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission — extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions.

You see, the economic projections that accompanied the standby arrangement assumed that Greece could impose harsh austerity with little effect on growth and employment. Greece was already in recession when the deal was reached, but the projections assumed that this downturn would end soon — that there would be only a small contraction in 2011, and that by 2012 Greece would be recovering. Unemployment, the projections conceded, would rise substantially, from 9.4 percent in 2009 to almost 15 percent in 2012, but would then begin coming down fairly quickly.

What actually transpired was an economic and human nightmare. Far from ending in 2011, the Greek recession gathered momentum. Greece didn’t hit the bottom until 2014, and by that point it had experienced a full-fledged depression, with overall unemployment rising to 28 percent and youth unemployment rising to almost 60 percent. And the recovery now underway, such as it is, is barely visible, offering no prospect of returning to precrisis living standards for the foreseeable future.

What went wrong? I fairly often encounter assertions to the effect that Greece didn’t carry through on its promises, that it failed to deliver the promised spending cuts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Greece imposed savage cuts in public services, wages of government workers and social benefits. Thanks to repeated further waves of austerity, public spending was cut much more than the original program envisaged, and it’s currently about 20 percent lower than it was in 2010.

Yet Greek debt troubles are if anything worse than before the program started. One reason is that the economic plunge has reduced revenues: The Greek government is collecting a substantially higher share of G.D.P. in taxes than it used to, but G.D.P. has fallen so quickly that the overall tax take is down. Furthermore, the plunge in G.D.P. has caused a key fiscal indicator, the ratio of debt to G.D.P., to keep rising even though debt growth has slowed and Greece received some modest debt relief in 2012.

Why were the original projections so wildly overoptimistic? As I said, because supposedly hardheaded officials were in reality engaged in fantasy economics. Both the European Commission and the European Central Bank decided to believe in the confidence fairy — that is, to claim that the direct job-destroying effects of spending cuts would be more than made up for by a surge in private-sector optimism. The I.M.F. was more cautious, but it nonetheless grossly underestimated the damage austerity would do.

And here’s the thing: If the troika had been truly realistic, it would have acknowledged that it was demanding the impossible. Two years after the Greek program began, the I.M.F. looked for historical examples where Greek-type programs, attempts to pay down debt through austerity without major debt relief or inflation, had been successful. It didn’t find any.

So now that Mr. Tsipras has won, and won big, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their program. The fact is they have no credibility; the program they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.

If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.

Still, in calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

In Torture Report Face-Off, ACLU Fights GOP Repo Man

In Torture Report Face-Off, ACLU Fights GOP Repo Man

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If the White House gives in to Sen. Richard Burr's demands, civil rights group says it 'faces the real threat of never securing the release of a document to which it is entitled by law'
Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

During the tug-of-war, federal agencies appear to have paid little mind to the report, possibly out of concern that it is the property of Congress and off-limits to them, as GOP Sen. Richard Burr has claimed. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

The ACLU filed an emergency motion with a federal judge to stop the new GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from repossessing the full-length version of a revealing inquiry into CIA torture.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has requested the White House and various executive agencies "immediately" return copies of the 6,700-page report, which Burr says was inappropriately transmitted by his predecessor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Feinstein disputes that characterization.

The ACLU and other human rights groups charge that Burr's request is an attempt to keep the findings of the report under wraps permanently. As Politico points out: "Who maintains legal control of the report could be critical to whether and when it is made public."

"If Defendants transfer the report to Senator Burr, the ACLU faces the real threat of never securing the release of a document to which it is entitled by law," ACLU lawyers wrote in the emergency motion (pdf) filed late Tuesday in connection with a pending Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

"The Final Full Report is the product of the most significant investigation into the most egregious CIA abuses in at least a generation," the motion went on. "Public release of the Final Full Report is necessary for 'an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed'."

As ACLU attorney Hina Shamsi told the Guardian: "The full torture report is critical for meaningful public scrutiny of the CIA’s horrific acts, as well as its lies and evasions to Congress, the courts, and the American public."

However, "[s]hould Burr take hold of the existing copies of the classified report, it would shut off legal channels for public disclosure, as Congress has immunized itself from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)," the Guardian explains.

The Hill reports that since the report was released in December, federal agencies—including the State Department and the FBI—"appear to have paid little mind to the report, possibly out of concern that it is the property of Congress and off-limits to them, as Burr has claimed."

To that end, several anti-secrecy and anti-torture organizations wrote to President Barack Obama on Wednesday to express "serious concern that your administration has apparently ignored the Senate Intelligence Committee's full report on CIA torture since receiving it more than six weeks ago, and to urge you to reject Chairman Richard Burr's request that you return all copies of the report."

The letter (pdf), co-signed by groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights, and Reprieve U.S., continued:

Government officials must thoroughly understand how and why torture was authorized and perpetrated in order to effectively guard against its repetition. Accordingly, we urge you to direct the relevant agencies and departments in your administration to review the full report and to adopt appropriate internal reforms to help permanently eradicate torture and cruel treatment from official U.S. policy.

...Accommodating Chairman Burr would deprive executive branch decisionmakers of their best chance to learn from a dark chapter of U.S. history and would raise serious questions about your commitment to a future free from government-sanctioned torture. It would also raise serious questions about the executive branch’s commitment to abiding by the transparency obligations imposed by Congress’s Freedom of Information Act.
The Obama Administration's stance in the dispute is reportedly unclear, though Politico says "the White House appears to at least be preserving its options to return the full report."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Guilty Verdict for CIA Agent Called 'New Low' in War on Whistleblowers

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Guilty Verdict for CIA Agent Called 'New Low' in War on Whistleblowers

As case grounded 'largely on circumstantial evidence' results in guilty verdict, advocates for Jeffrey Sterling say government has gone too far
Jon Queally, staff writer

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on Jan. 26 with his wife Holly, center, and attorney Barry Pollack, after being convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified information to a reporter. (Photo: Kevin Wolf/AP)

Jeffery Sterling, the former CIA agent who tried to blow the whistle on an "ill-conceived, poorly executed and reckless" agency effort to provide flawed nuclear plans to Iran, was found guilty of espionage by a federal jury on Monday in a case that Sterling's advocates say is just the latest example of the Obama adminstration's unprecedented attack on unauthorized leaks and whistleblowers.

"The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration – sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you talk to a reporter and tell him something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you." —Dan Froomkin, The Intercept

Sterling, found guilty on nine separate counts, was accused by the Department of Justice of leaking details of the CIA plan—known as Operation Merlin— to New York Times reporter James Risen and much of the initial intrigue surrounding the case centered on Risen's refusal to acknowledge whether or not the CIA agent was, in fact, his source for the reporting that appeared in his 2006 book, State of War. In the end, Risen maintained his refusal to testify for or against Sterling and the Justice Department dropped their efforts to force his testimony.

As the New York Times reported, "The Justice Department had no direct proof that Mr. Sterling, who managed the Iranian operation, provided the information to Mr. Risen, but prosecutors stitched together a strong circumstantial case."

The Washington Post characterized the guilty verdicts "as a significant win for federal prosecutors and a presidential administration that has worked zealously to root out leakers."

While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called Sterling's conviction the "just and appropriate outcome," critics of the government's case pilloried the entire ordeal. Sterling was allowed to return home until sentencing in the case is rendered on April 24.

Sterling’s attorney, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., said he would seek to get the verdict thrown out and, failing that, file an appeal.

"We’re obviously very saddened by the jury’s verdict," MacMahon told the Times in in a telephone interview. "We continue to believe in Jeffrey’s innocence, and we’re going to continue to fight for him up to the highest levels."

According to the Times:

Liberal advocacy groups have hailed Mr. Sterling as a whistle-blower for taking his concerns about the program to the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2003, a time when dissenting voices in the C.I.A. were hushed as the country prepared for war in Iraq. The Justice Department and C.I.A., however, deny that characterization. They said that the Iran operation had not been mismanaged and that Mr. Sterling had gone to Congress and then the news media as a way to settle personal grievances.

Asked for her reaction to the Sterling's conviction by FireDogLake's Kevin Gosztola, Jesselyn Radack, a Justice Department whistleblower, attorney and director of the Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division, said the prosecution and conviction of Sterling represents "a new low in the war in whistleblowers and government hypocrisy."

Sterling, Radack continued, "was convicted in a purely circumstantial case of ‘leaking.’ It shows how far an embarrassed government will go to punish those who dare to commit the truth."

According to journalist Marcy Wheeler, who has covered the case extensively for and sat through nearly the entire trial, the government's case was striking for being strong on rhetoric but slim on actual facts. On Monday, after closing arguments had been made, Wheeler wrote:

[Few] who haven’t sat through the trial realize just how circumstantial the evidence on most of the charges against Sterling is.

The only evidence of phone calls between Sterling and James Risen immediately before Risen went to the CIA with a fully drafted story on the Merlin operation consists of 2 minutes and 40 seconds of calls, total, across 7 phone calls. Then there’s one email in which Sterling sent Risen a link to an unclassified article on Iran posted by CNN.

Two minutes and 40 seconds for what would likely have been a 1000-word story?

Indeed, in discussions immediately after the closing arguments, even Judge Brinkema acknowledged how circumstantial the case is. Ed MacMahon tried to get all the charges thrown out on venue grounds — because, after all, the prosecution only presented evidence that Sterling and Risen had spoken, on any topic, for 2 minutes and 40 seconds in the state of Virginia.
That’s it.

Norman Solomon, Wheeler's colleague at and who has also covered the trial closely, explained to Common Dreams in an email how one of the most striking things about the media coverage of the Sterling case was just how little of it there was.

"One of the most powerful forms of propaganda from corporate media is silence, and that has been a major dynamic in the sparse coverage of Jeffrey Sterling," Solomon said. "Few media outlets have gone beyond handouts and rhetoric from the government."

In his latest dispatch about the trial, published Tuesday, Solomon referred to Sterling as an "Invisible Man"—invoking the famous book by Ralph Ellison—as he lamented the scant attention his case has received. "While press-freedom groups and some others gradually rallied around Risen’s right to source confidentiality," Solomon wrote, "Sterling remained the Invisible Man."

Though many mainstream outlets have now covered the verdict of trial, Solomon observed that very few have shown deep understanding of the case. "Under such conditions," he continued, "progressive outlets should go out of their way to inform people long before a trial starts. Otherwise, as happened on Monday, a verdict comes down and most people—even those who want to support whistleblowers—don't have the background understanding to put the verdict in context. We're playing catch-up when we should have been ahead of the prosecution curve."

Following the guilty verdict on Monday, Gosztola offered this analysis:

What will likely be most remembered about Sterling’s case is how the government relentlessly pursued Risen for about seven years before buckling under pressure and deciding they would not force him to testify against his alleged source.

Collateral damage was done to journalism in the process of the government’s leak prosecution. The government collected records from Risen’s personal and professional communications, which significantly impacted his ability to do his job as a reporter.

The prosecution of Sterling once more solidified the government’s ability to wield the Espionage Act as a sledgehammer to come down hard on government employees, who dare to challenge the government’s intelligence or “national security” programs by disclosing information to the press.

Placing the conviction of Sterling in the context of the Obama administration's refusal to hold anyone at the CIA or in the former Bush administration accountable for the agency's torture program, The Intercept's Dan Froomkin argues the case speaks volumes about the duplicity of the White House and the Justice Department when it comes to prosecuting alleged misconduct by government officials.

"The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration," writes Froomkin, "sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you talk to a reporter and tell him something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

US Drone Kills Sixth Grade Boy in Yemen, says Human Rights Group

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

US Drone Kills Sixth Grade Boy in Yemen, says Human Rights Group

Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, described as 'a normal kid,' killed four years after father and brother were both killed in 2011 drone strike

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

A photo purportedly showing US drone strike victim Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, who is estimated to be 12 years old. (Photo via National Organization for Drone Victims)
A sixth grade Yemeni boy was among the three victims killed by a U.S. drone strike on Monday, a human rights group has said.

The alleged CIA strike, which marked the first reported U.S. drone strike in Yemen this year, came just two days after U.S. military officials announced that the drone campaign would not by deterred by ongoing unrest in the region.

According to reports, the three victims were killed while traveling in a vehicle in central-southern Yemen near the Hareeb, Shabwa-Mareb border.

Though the deceased were reportedly members of the local militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), local human rights organization Yemeni National Organisation for Drone Victims (NODV) confirmed to Reuters that one of the victims, Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, was a child. "He was in sixth grade, so his age was between about 11-13 years old," said NODV head Mohammed al-Qawli. He described him as "a normal kid."

Reuters continues:

NODV said that Taeiman's 65-year-old father, Saleh Qayed Taeiman, died along with one of his sons called Jalal, 16, in the 2011 drone strike. A third brother, 17-year-old Ezz el-Deen, survived another drone strike, but still has shrapnel in his body, NODV said.

NODV said that one of the other victims in Monday's strike was identified as Abdallah Khaled Aziz al-Zindani, a farm worker married to a woman from the Taeiman clan, which was due to meet with other tribes in the area to discuss their response.

Earlier, Baraa Shiban, Yemen-based project coordinator with the international human rights organization Reprieve, also offered details about the age of the youngest victim in a series of posts on Twitter.
One of the dead is Moh Tuaiman, born in 2001, AKA "Child", was at his 6th Primary class #Yemen
— Baraa Shiban (@BShtwtr) January 26, 2015

What was he doing there? That's not a question, nor an excuse to kill a child #Yemen
— Baraa Shiban (@BShtwtr) January 26, 2015

And Yemeni journalist Hafez Albukari shared this photograph purportedly of the strike aftermath.
Drone strike killed three in Hareeb, Shabwa (East Yemen) @wq2022
— Hafez Albukari (@hafezbukari) January 26, 2015

On Sunday, President Barack Obama defended his ongoing drone campaign in Yemen, saying: "It is not neat and it is not simple, but it is the best option that we have." The Monday strike was the first since the U.S.-allied Yemeni President Abed Mansour Hadi and his cabinet were forced to resign by Houthi rebels, who had seized control of the capital Sana'a.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that as many as 85 confirmed U.S. drone strikes in Yemen have killed up to 544 people since 2002. However, the group notes as many as one hundred additional drone strikes may have occurred during that time.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 Ph: 410-366-1637 or 727-543-3227; Email: mobuszewski at



Contact: Max Obuszewski [410] 366-1637 or 727-543-3227 or mobuszewski at

WHO: The Pledge of Resistance was formed for individuals willing to engage in nonviolent civil resistance to first prevent and later to protest the war in Iraq. It is affiliated with several national peace groups, including the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and United For Peace & Justice.

Baltimore Pledge members are still concerned about the disastrous situation in Iraq, made even worse by the ascendancy of the organization called ISIS. ISIS has engaged in exceedingly brutal acts in both Iraq and Syria, and there has been much discussion of what can be done about preventing the organization from making further inroads in both countries. In an attempt to better understand the situation, the Pledge invited Jim and Deborah Fine, who live in Bristol, Pennsylvania, to Baltimore to speak.

WHAT: The couple returned in September 2014 from Erbil, Iraq after working there for five years with the Mennonite Central Committee. Their principal work was with refugees fleeing the various conflicts, including the Yazidis who are being terrorized by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The stunning advances of ISIS have put all ethnic and religious groups in the area, including moderate Sunni Arabs, at risk. For some groups the threat approaches genocidal proportions. The U.S. has responded with air strikes. Yet, from President Obama on down, everyone agrees there is no military solution. The Fines will address “MISSING FROM THE WAR NARRATIVE: Why it will be hard for the U.S. to contain and weaken, let alone degrade and destroy, the Islamic State.”

WHEN: Friday, January 30, 2015 at 7:30 PM

WHERE: Free School Classroom, Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201

WHY: It is important to garner information from people working in an area of concern who are not affiliated with the government, the military or a contractor profiting from the war. When in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Region, the Fines administered MCC’s relief, development, and peacebuilding work with Iraqi partner organizations throughout the country. Deb also taught English and mentored K-12 teachers in the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil. This past summer, they witnessed the influx of tens of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and others into Erbil and Dohuk provinces as Islamic State forces took over Mosul and the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain east and west of Mosul.

Prior to serving with MCC Jim worked on Iraq and other Middle East issues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington. Deb taught history in a public high school. Both served with the American Friends Service Committee in Jerusalem in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Deb holds an MA in Middle East history from Georgetown University, and Jim holds an MA in comparative religion from Columbia University.


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brazil's Worst Drought in History Prompts Protests and Blackouts

Brazil's Worst Drought in History Prompts Protests and Blackouts

By Jonathan Watts, Guardian UK
25 January 15

Lights go out, internet is cut for days, and agriculture is suffering as crisis spreads from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and beyond

The taps have run dry and the lights have gone out across swathes of Brazil this week as the worst drought in history spreads from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and beyond.
More than four million people have been affected by rationing and rolling power cuts as this tropical nation discovers it can no longer rely on once abundant water supplies in a period of rising temperatures and diminishing rainfall.

The political and economic fallout for the world’s seventh biggest economy is increasingly apparent. Protesters in dry neighbourhoods have taken to the streets, coffee crops have been hit, businesses have been forced to close and peddle-boat operators have had to cease operations because lakes have dried up.

In São Paulo – the most populous city in South America and the worst hit by the drought – a year of shortages has cut water use in the city by a quarter since last January, but Jerson Kelman, the head of the main water company Sabesp, urged consumers to do more in helping the utility to “prepare for the worst”.

“There is a significant part of the population that is not yet aware of the seriousness of the situation and refuses to change habits,” he wrote in an op-ed published on Thursday. “They must be convinced to change their behaviour.” If the dry spell continues, he warned full-scale rationing would be introduced – something the city government denied would be necessary during last year’s elections.

At least six cities have been hit by blackouts due to weak hydroelectricity generation and high demand for air conditioning as temperatures soar over 35C. In response, utilities are burning more fossil fuels, adding to the cost of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The government acknowledged on Thursday that Brazil is also now importing power from Argentina to try to cover the shortfall.

In São Paulo, subway trains on one line had to be halted for more than a hour. Lights and internet have also been cut in some areas for days, causing substantial inconvenience to residents and hefty losses to businesses.

Agriculture is suffering with international impacts. Production of arabica coffee beans – a commodity that Brazil supplies in far greater bulk than any other country – fell 15% last year pushing up the global price of the commodity by almost half. Growers in Minas Gerais said rainfall was just 900 millimetres last year, about half its usual level. As coffee has a two-year growing cycle, the impacts will be felt next year too even if the rains return. Sugar and ethanol output has also been hit. Last week, Raizen, the country’s biggest producer, announced it will lay off 250 workers and cease production at its Bom Retiro mill for two years because of cane shortages caused by the drought.

Seventeen of the country’s 18 biggest reservoirs are at lower levels than during the last water crisis in 2001. The southeast is worst affected.

“The region has seen alarming reservoir levels since January 2014. Now in 2015, the levels are very worrying, It’s a critical situation,” Paulo Canedo, a water management specialist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said.

Although the authorities hope for relief from the skies, the current rainy season has only added to concerns. In the first three weeks of January – usually the height of the season – rainfall into the main Cantareira reservoir system was less than a quarter of the average for this period. The reservoir is now down to 5.4% of its capacity, according to government monitoring stations.

In Rio, the four reservoirs in the Paraiba system – which supplies the main source of tap water in Rio – are at the lowest level in history – about 1%.

The problem is spreading elsewhere. At least 93 cities have imposed rationing, affecting 3.9 million people. In the northeastern city of Olinda, authorities are cutting water supplies for three days a week.

The shortages are affecting the poor more than anyone. Short of supplies for drinking, cooking and washing, several communities have taken to the streets to protest. Groups of residents have beaten empty buckets and cans to express their frustration in the Madureira district of Rio, which has been without tap water since before Christmas. The city of Guarapari has seen two such demonstrations. The media have reflected such frustrations. “Sem Luz, Sem Agua” (Without Light, Without Water) ran a front-page headline in the Extra newspaper.

The finger of blame has been pointed at national and local governments that have responded slowly and fallen behind in upgrades of pipes, dams and transmission lines. Waste is rife. A recent central government report showed that 37% of tap water is lost due to leaky pipes, fraud and illegal access.

São Paulo’s water company Sabesp has begun upgrading, but with 64,000 km of old pipes, this operation is likely to take many years. In the meantime they have extended reductions in pressure, which means many homes suffer water cuts for days on end.

Water authorities counter that they are having to deal with extreme weather and rising demands from a growing and increasingly wealthy population.
“There are a lot of factors behind this – rising population density, higher average temperatures increased water consumption and global warming” said Ian Cardoso from CEDAE, the company responsible for water in the state of Rio.

Climate change, however is denied by the country’s new science minister, Aldo Rebelo, who has declared the environmental movement is “nothing less, in its geopolitical essence, than the bridgehead of imperialism”.
Scientists think otherwise. As well as global warming, they say Brazil’s weather patterns have been disrupted by the loss of Amazon rainforest and the growth of cities.

Antonio Nobre, researcher in the government’s space institute, Earth System Science Centre, told the Guardian the logging and burning of the world’s greatest forest might be connected to worsening droughts – such as the one currently plaguing São Paulo – and is likely to lead eventually to more extreme weather events.
Augusto José Pereira Filho, a hydrometeorology expert at the University of São Paulo, said the microclimate of the city was affected by population growth and urban expansion, which create a heat-island effect and reduce the amount of low cloud.

Additional reporting by Shanna Hanbury

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Syriza’s Historic Win Puts Greece on Collision Course With Europe

Published on Portside (

Syriza’s Historic Win Puts Greece on Collision Course With Europe

Ian Traynor

Sunday, January 25, 2015
The Guardian

European politics has been plunged into a volatile new era following a historic victory in Greece’s general election by far-left radicals [1]committed to ending years of austerity.

More than five years into the euro crisis that started in Greece in October 2009 [2] and raised questions about the single currency’s survival, Greek voters roundly rejected the savage spending cuts and tax rises imposed by Europe which reduced the country to penury.

Voters handed power to Alexis Tsipras, the charismatic 40-year-old former communist who leads the umbrella coalition of assorted leftists known as Syriza. He cruised to an eight-point victory over the incumbent centre-right New Democracy party, according to exit polls and projections after 93% of votes had been counted.
The result surpassed pollster predictions and marginalised the two mainstream parties that have run the country since the military junta’s fall in 1974. It appeared last night, however, that Syriza would win 149 seats – just short of securing the 151 of 300 seats that would enable Tsipras to govern without coalition partners.
“The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate,” Tsipras told a crowd of rapturous flag-waving party supporters. “Greece has turned a page. Greece [3] is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain.”

Greece’s incumbent prime minister, Antonis Samaras, whose conservative-dominated coalition had been in office since June 2012, conceded defeat early in the evening and admitted that “mistakes and injustices” had been made but insisted he was leaving office with a clear conscience. “I assumed charge of a country that was on the brink of collapse … and we restored its international credibility,” said Samaras.

Tsipras’s victory, widely predicted [4], was nonetheless stunning in scale and in impact. Single-party majorities are very rare in parliamentary systems in Europe these days, in recent years occurring in only Hungary [5] and Slovakia under strongman leaders of the right and left. For an upstart party such as Syriza, which has never been tested in power, the victory highlighted how five years of fiscal orthodoxy in Europe have turned politics upside down.

“I just voted for the party that’s going to change Greece; in fact, the party that is going to change the whole of Europe [6],” said Panagiotis, 54, a self-employed electrician voting in the Kipseli district of Athens. “There has to be change, big change. The economy has collapsed … Syriza is Greece’s hope.”

The damning popular verdict on Europe’s response to financial meltdown is a haunting outcome for the EU’s political elite. For the first time, power has been handed to populist outsiders deeply opposed to Brussels and Berlin, albeit not anti-European, unlike their counterparts on the far right across the EU. For the first time a child of the European crisis, an explicitly anti-austerity party, will take office in the EU.

“There’s a sense that these populist movements are led by people who didn’t go to university with [the leaders] and that if you ignore them they will go away. They’ve been ignored and patronised,” said a senior EU policymaker in Brussels. “The underlying causes are economic. We want a Europe that is delivering tangible benefits to citizens. That’s not what it feels like at the moment.”

The result throws into question whether Greece will remain in the eurozone and the union overall, sets a precedent for anti-austerity insurgents elsewhere in Europe – notably in Spain, which will hold elections this year – and underlines public rejection of the policies prescribed mainly if not exclusively by Berlin in recent years.

Tsipras now holds Greece’s European fate in his hands. Athens and its creditors – the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which have bailed the country out to the tune of €240bn (£178bn) since 2010 – will spend weeks in wrenching negotiations over the terms of continued assistance and whether his new government will do enough in terms of further cuts and reforms to keep Greece in the euro.

Neither side wants Greece to crash out of the currency. But positions are very far apart, and currently unbridgeable. While the German central bank promptly declared that Greece needed more loans but only on eurozone terms, senior Syriza figures announced that the bailout diktat was “dead”.

“Grexit [7] is unthinkable,” said a second senior Brussels policymaker involved in the negotiations. “It would be extremely bad. Europe is about irreversibility. If you start doubting that, you start pricing in the risk of fragmentation and soon you have no monetary union. The only chance of Grexit is if Greece defaults on its payments. Morally, that would be saying they want to leave.” A default would trigger a run on the banks, capital flight and capital controls.

The clock is already ticking. When the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, French president François Hollande, British prime minister David Cameron et al assemble for an EU summit in Brussels in just over a fortnight, they will be joined at Europe’s top table by Tsipras, probably the only man there not wearing a tie. The symbolism will be enormous. Europe’s anti-mainstream mavericks and populists are no longer just hammering on the doors.

Before that summit on 12 February, Tsipras, say people involved in the negotiations, will want to have already fleshed out the contours of a deal. Berlin and Brussels have been quietly sending envoys to Syriza, including Tsipras, for weeks. He has been “perfectly reasonable”, say senior Brussels sources.

Greece’s current bailout expires at midnight on 28 February. Without agreement to extend that programme, probably until the summer, Greece’s banks will be unable to borrow normally and will depend on emergency liquidity, effectively living on an overdraft. There is up to €7bn available to Greece if it strikes a deal.
“They have to ask for an extension of the programme. If they don’t, they go belly up,” said a second policymaker. “We’re counting on their seeing their enlightened self-interest and getting the money to pay the bills.”

But another senior figure in Brussels was less optimistic: “Do we know that Germany or Finland will agree to a new programme?”

Tsipras has pledged to rewrite the terms of the bailout that dates from 2012 by trying to ease the fiscal orthodoxy defined by Berlin and achieving some form of writedown or relief on the country’s national debt of €320bn or 175% of GDP.

It is not clear how he can achieve this in the time available. Tsipras and Samaras both reject the EU terms. Samaras has been stalling since last June on the EU-IMF review of the Greek shakeup tied to the bailout.
Ironically, the eurozone is asking Tsipras, who won on a hard-left, anti-austerity rejectionist ticket, to go further than Samaras was prepared to go. Samaras and Tsipras want an end to the “humiliating” rescue programmes and their oversight by the hated troika of officials from the European commission, European Central Bank and IMF. But it is not clear how, without the creditors writing off much of the loans. This is rejected by the IMF and the ECB and is politically unacceptable to Merkel who fears it will encourage other ailing eurozone economies to shirk their sides of the bailout bargains while boosting Germany’s own growing anti-euro movement.
In early trading this morning the euro fell to near an 11-year low of $1.1135 following the result of the election, not far off an 11-year low of $1.1115 touched on Friday.

Besides, if freed of what it sees as the tyrannical terms of the bailout conditions, Greece is not in a position to fund itself. Its borrowing costs are currently nudging 10%, way beyond the affordable. The German government initiated parliamentary procedures last month with a view to setting up a “precautionary” fallback programme for Greece under which the country would try to fund itself on the markets, but have a eurozone cushion if that was not possible.

The German move, extremely unwelcome in Athens where the political imperative is liberation from bailouts, was seen as clumsy interference in the election. In return, the Greek outcome will now affect German domestic politics.

Tsipras’s triumph – itself a direct result of the EU’s austerity policies, although those were preceded by three decades of cronyism, nepotism and corruption which became the system in Greece – will resonate strongly beyond the Balkans, throwing up sharp questions about the policy shortcomings of the elites and their failure to get to grips with the new populist forces challenging their right to rule.

The Podemos upstarts in Spain, the Five Star anti-establishment mavericks of Beppe Grillo in Italy, and Gerry Adams’s Sinn Féin in Ireland will all relish the Syriza victory.

Other mainstream figures in the EU will also be quietly hoping that Tsipras can mount a credible challenge to the Merkel ascendancy and secure a shift in eurozone policymaking – leaders on the centre-left such as Hollande in France and the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi.

The result will also chasten mainstream leaders, many of them facing elections this year across the EU as they seek to neutralise their own domestic Eurosceptic and anti-establishment forces.

“Everyone knows Europe today is a continent with no growth, no inflation, high unemployment. It’s very hard to tell people that Europe is the solution, that it has the answers. What is Europe for?” asked one of the three senior figures in unusually pessimistic remarks.

“The results of the European elections [last May] have seen anti-European parties raging everywhere. That’s discontent with the European project. There is always an economic basis. The next election could be rejection of the project and there’s nothing left.”

Source URL:



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Video of the announcement of the Doomsday Clock resetting/Pope Breaks Ground in Seeking Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

Video of the announcement of the Doomsday Clock resetting: (50 minutes)

Pope Breaks Ground in Seeking Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

by Douglas Roche
December 31, 2014
Western Catholic Reporter.

Pope Francis, who has already broken new ground in his outreach to a suffering humanity, has put the weight of the Catholic Church behind a new humanitarian movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The pope sent a message to the recent conference in Vienna, attended by more than 150 governments, to advance public understanding of what is now called the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences" of any use of the 16,300 nuclear weapons possessed by nine countries.

In his message, delivered by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a leading Holy See diplomat, Pope Francis stripped away any lingering moral acceptance of the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence: “Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence."

He called for a worldwide dialogue, including both the nuclear and non-nuclear states and the burgeoning organizations that make up civil society, “to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all to the benefit of our common home."

Pope Francis has now put his firm stamp on the Church’s rejection of nuclear weapons, to the enormous satisfaction of the delegates crowding the Vienna conference. No longer can the major powers, still defending their right to keep possessing nuclear weapons, claim the slightest shred of morality for their actions.

The pope’s stand was supported by a remarkable Vatican document, Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition, also put before the Vienna conference. The document did not mince words: “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to abolition."

The Church has now put behind it the limited acceptance of nuclear deterrence it gave at the height of the Cold War. That acceptance was given only on the condition that nuclear deterrence lead progressively to disarmament.

Washington, London and Paris, the three Western nuclear capitals where the Church’s words influence, to some degree, government policy, used this limited acceptance to justify their continued nuclear buildup.

When the Cold War ended, they continued modernizing their arsenals and refused demands, reiterated at the UN many times, to join in comprehensive negotiations with Moscow and Beijing.


When the Church saw that nuclear deterrence was indeed becoming a permanent military doctrine, Holy See spokespersons began speaking out in opposition to the continuing reliance on nuclear weapons. At the 2005 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent representative of the Holy See at the UN, stated:

“The Holy See has never countenanced nuclear deterrence as a permanent measure, nor does it today when it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament."

The Holy See has repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but the public and even Church leaders around the world paid little attention.

Now the powerful personality of Pope Francis has put a world spotlight on the Church’s rejection of not only the use of nuclear weapons but their very possession. He scorned the technocratic defence of nuclear weapons: “It is moral reason that recognizes deterrence as an obstacle to peace, and leads us to seek alternative paths to a peaceful world."

The pope gave full support to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament, starting with a nuclear weapons convention or a legal framework to eliminate the weapons. And he repeated the Holy See’s call for a worldwide conference to start negotiations.

Pope Francis’ document is a direct attack on the military- industrial complex, which keeps trying to justify nuclear weapons as an aid to peace: “The human family will have to become united in order to overcome powerful institutionalized interests that are invested in nuclear armaments."


He called for a global ethic of solidarity to stop the misallocation of resources “which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health, and the fight against extreme poverty."

The amount of money – $1 trillion – the major powers will spend on their nuclear arsenals over the next 10 years is a scandal of immense proportions. The United States alone will spend $355 billion.

Pope Francis’ document challenges hierarchies everywhere to act to change governments’ immoral policies of nuclear deterrence. The pressure will be felt intensely by the American bishops, who know their country is in the driver’s seat for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

See also


Pope Decries Global Problem of Nuclear Weapons

Expresses Hope for Disarmament for Sake of Future Generations

December 09, 2014 ( Deborah Castellano Lubov

Full Message:

Vienna -

Pope Francis is highlighting the global problem of nuclear weapons affecting all nations and impacting future generations and our planet.

The Holy Father spoke of his concern in a message to the participants of the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Vienna, which began Monday and ends today. His message was read aloud by Archbishop Silvio Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.

“It is my great hope," the Pope noted, that our responsibility toward others “will inform our efforts in favor of nuclear disarmament" and to make others see that "a world without nuclear weapons is truly possible."

“Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and states," he highlighted.

What is needed for us to reduce the nuclear threat and work toward nuclear disarmament, the Pope said, is a "global ethic." Technological, social and political interdependence urgently calls for an ethic of solidarity now more than ever, he stressed.

Francis said we must work together for a more secure world, as well as for a future that is increasingly rooted in moral values and responsibility on a global scale.

While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons' potential for mass killing, the Pope said more attention must be given to the "unnecessary suffering" brought on by their use.

Reminding such weapons have the potential to destroy us and civilization, Francis stated, “The youth of today and tomorrow deserve far more"; they deserve “a peaceful world order based on the unity of the human family, grounded on respect, cooperation, solidarity and compassion."

"Now is the time to counter the logic of fear with the ethics of responsibility," he said, as well as "foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue."

“Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations," he said, noting that to prioritize such spending "is a mistake" and "a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty."

If resources are squandered, he said, the poor and weak living on the margins of society “pay the price."

Since the desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart and is rooted in God, he clarified it is “never satisfied by military means alone, much less the possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction."

“The future and the survival of the human family hinges on moving beyond this ideal and ensuring that it becomes a reality," he concluded, saying the security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, January 26, 2015

Who Can Control NSA Surveillance?

(illustration: unknown source)

Who Can Control NSA Surveillance?

By Mattathias Schwartz, The New Yorker
25 January 15

President Obama spent only a few moments of his State of the Union this week talking about the National Security Agency and civil liberties. A year before, he’d promised to “end” Section 215, the N.S.A.’s most controversial surveillance program, “as it currently exists.” In his speech last Tuesday, he said almost nothing concrete, aside from mentioning a forthcoming report “on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”

Since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the N.S.A.’s activities in the summer of 2013, there have been a number of official reports on the troubled relationship between surveillance and privacy—one from the President’s Review Group, two from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and another, last week, from the National Academy of Sciences. In August, 2013, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence started a Tumblr, on which they’ve posted many interesting and useful documents, including redacted orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).

But, while the government has made some moves toward transparency about its surveillance programs, it has enacted few substantial reforms of them. The N.S.A. continues to use Section 215, named after a part of the Patriot Act, to collect metadata on hundreds of billions of U.S. phone calls. Obama has talked about moving the data to some third party. Congress has talked about more serious reforms, including an independent advocate who would represent privacy concerns before the FISA court. But the most significant reform that has been undertaken as the result of an order from Obama is a reduction in the scope of metadata searches, from three “hops,” or degrees of association, to two.

There isn’t much evidence to suggest that Section 215 helps catch the most dangerous terrorists, like those who committed the attacks in Paris two weeks ago. It may even slow investigators down, by eating up resources and generating extraneous leads. (I wrote about Section 215’s track record in this week’s magazine.)

Nevertheless, opponents of N.S.A. reform continue to claim that Section 215 can stop violent terrorists. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, said that information collected from phone records helped halt a plot to bomb the U.S. Capitol, despite the fact that, as the Guardian reported, the F.B.I. has indicated that the critical information came from a government informant. “The first thing that strikes me is that we would’ve never known about this had it not been for the FISA program and our ability to collect information for people who pose an imminent threat,” Boehner told Politico.

When Obama and Congress talk about N.S.A. reform, they’re mostly talking about Section 215. But what other classified surveillance programs are out there? The difficulty of answering this question was made clear last week, when the Drug Enforcement Administration revealed in a court filing that it had maintained a database of calls made from U.S. phone numbers to and from overseas callers. The D.E.A. held the database under a law ostensibly related to administrative subpoenas, not metadata, and used it in criminal drug-trafficking investigations, not counterterrorism activities. Despite the apparent lack of a connection to terrorism, all the D.E.A. needed to search the database was a “reasonable articulable suspicion,” a lower standard of evidence than probable cause that is most often associated with counterterrorism and counterintelligence programs. According to the D.E.A. filings, the program was suspended in September, 2013. All of the information that was contained in the database has since been deleted, a D.E.A. spokesperson told the Times.

If Obama and Congress were to undertake serious surveillance reforms, they would have a hard time doing it one authority at a time. The limits on U.S. surveillance were written in an analog age, when “pen registers” and “trap and trace devices” intercepted communications moving on copper wire. The legality of collecting phone metadata rests on a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland, which held that the police did not need a warrant to obtain the phone numbers dialed from a single suspect’s land line. It didn’t say anything about location tracking, pattern-based analysis, or collecting phone records by the million. The discrepancy between the old guidelines and the new technology they describe has facilitated surprisingly broad interpretations of the ruling, most notably Section 215.

Last October, Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, proposed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which would curtail some of the N.S.A.’s domestic powers with an independent FISA advocate, more legal authority for a key oversight board, and more stringent legal standards for obtaining phone metadata and other records. It’s unclear whether the bill will make it through the Republican-controlled Congress, or what will happen if Congress fails to reform Section 215 before June, when it will expire if it’s not renewed. In the end, the branch of government most capable of settling the thorny N.S.A. debate may turn out to be the courts.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Toddler Maimed by SWAT Flash Grenade Sparks Georgia Bills on 'No-Knock' Warrants

Baby Bounkham Phonesavanh. (photo: Justice For Baby Bounkham)

Toddler Maimed by SWAT Flash Grenade Sparks Georgia Bills on 'No-Knock' Warrants

By Liz Fields, VICE News
25 January 15

Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh was sleeping the sound slumber of a 19-month-old in the early hours of May 28, when a Georgia SWAT team burst in unannounced through his relative's front door and tossed a flash bang grenade into his playpen that blasted off most of his nose, collapsed his left lung, and tore his face and body down to muscle and bone.

Habersham County Police had acted on an informant tip-off claiming a methamphetamine dealer lived at the home, but officers found no drugs there and made no arrests at the residence. The widely-reported incident sparked outrage and compelled authorities to re-examine policies on the granting and execution of no-knock search warrants. Seven months after the incident with Bou Bou, lawmakers have introduced two bills to Georgia's legislature that seek to better regulate these types of entries.

Senate Bill 45, filed by Democratic Sen. Vincent Fort this month, would require police to show probable cause that there is imminent potential for life endangerment or destruction of evidence if they knocked and declared their presence at a suspect's door prior to arrest. A separate House Bill 56 would put a stop to unannounced arrests between 10pm and 6am, unless a judge specifically grants a warrant.

Georgia Republican Rep. Kevin Tanner, a co-sponsor of HB56, told VICE News that the legislation was intended to put in place "speed bumps" so supervisors reviewing no-knock arrest warrant applications can make sure they are being used, "only when it is the best course and best option."

Tanner, who previously served 18 years with the Dawson County Sheriff's Office and claims he executed "hundreds" of arrests and used "dozens" of no-knock warrants, said no states currently prohibit the use of these warrants because, "there are absolutely times when they are necessary."

"If they're used properly, they are a very valuable tool for law enforcement," said Tanner. "Granted it should not be in every situation. It should be limited."

Lawmakers are now proposing to tighten up regulations long before a physical warrant is even placed in the hands of arresting officers. The bills set out new conditions requiring law enforcement agencies would first need to establish a written policy on procedure and put in place specific training programs on no-knock arrests before they can seek a warrant.

Those guidelines would prevent further fatalities and incidents like the botched drug raid that injured Bou Bou, who spent weeks recovering in the hospital and racked up nearly $1 million in medical bills that the county has so far refused to pay for.

Bou Bou is now approaching his second birthday and literally still carries with him the residue of the explosion. He will need to undergo several more medical procedures, including one to remove gunpowder remnants still embedded in his face and body, according to the family's lawyer.

"Every day the family wakes up and this child looks in the mirror, they relive the terrible early morning hours of May 28," Mawuli Davis of Davis Bozeman Law, who represents the Phonesavanhs, told VICE News. "It was traumatizing and deeply painful. They're hurting as a family emotionally, financially and physically."

On the same day of the raid that left the baby permanently disfigured, Wanis Thonetheva, a cousin of Bou Bou, was arrested at a house down the street for drug possession. Police knocked on the door and he simply came out, unarmed, according to the family's lawyer.

Davis said the new legislation is a "very good start" to addressing the problems associated with no-knock arrests, but the family would like to see an extra clause added that would force officers to prove "that there are no children or elders present before a no-knock warrant is issued and executed."

"We also would like for there to be training regarding the deployment of flash grenades," he added. "Right now there is no standard training, on whether they should be deployed by a soft toss or slid across the floor — which should be standard practice."

Although a grand jury declined to indict any officers after Bou Bou's case was referred to them by prosecutors, jurors did deliver a scathing assessment of the drug investigation as "hurried" and "sloppy."
"Quite simply put, there should be no such thing as an 'emergency' in drug investigations," the jurorswrote in their recommendations after the decision.

The US attorney's office in Atlanta is still investigating the case, while the family plans to file a civil suit within the next 30 days, Davis said. The issue of their mounting medical bills remains unaddressed.
Tanner, who spent some time serving on a regional drug task force in North Georgia, maintains that the Bou Bou case was not the reason he pushed for the legislation, which he claims to have begun working on eight months ago.

"I'm not a quarterback kind of guy jumping on specific cases that get media attention," Tanner said. "I believe we need to be smarter than that."

Instead of one case, it is likely that a number of no-knock raids gone wrong in recent years have collectively triggered the need for reform in Georgia. These include incidences like last September, when police gunned down a 59-year-old grandfather in a late-night drug bust, which also resulted in no drugs being found, and an episode a few years earlier when a 92-year-old woman was killed by undercover officers during a bungled drug raid on her home in November 2006. The cases follow a host of other deaths that occurred during no-knock arrests in the state.

Nevertheless, the new legislation does seemingly take on board a number of the grand jury's recommendations from the Bou Bou case, especially on standardized training and oversight, while SB45, unveiled as part of wider overhaul measures on law enforcement in Georgia, has already been dubbed "Bou Bou's Law."

The more restrictive use of no-knock warrants proposed in the bills not only aims to spare civilian casualties and injuries, but could also help prevent loss of life on the side of law enforcement. The dangers faced by police during raids was highlighted by two recent cases in Texas, which ended in the shooting deaths of two SWAT team members serving pre-dawn no-knock warrants.

Last May in Kileen, a 49-year-old black man opened fire on four officers, killing one of them, as they tried to clamber through the suspect's window. He is awaiting trial on capital murder charges, which carry the death penalty. Months earlier, less than 100 miles away, a 28-year-old white man shot at police as they tried to enter his rural home near Somerville. He was later found to have acted in self-defense and faces trial only for felony marijuana possession.

While the contrasting cases probe deeply into issues of race and due process, they also tackle the questionable necessity of employing SWAT raids and no-knock arrest in drug investigations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that more than 60 percent of SWAT deployments, which were initially established for extreme circumstances such as active shooting and hostage scenarios, are now dedicated to drug raids. In half of these raids, police turned up no drugs, according to an ACLU report from June 2014.

"The use of a SWAT team to execute a search warrant essentially amounts to the use of paramilitary tactics to conduct domestic criminal investigations in searches of people's homes," the ACLU said in its assessment.
The report detailed numerous incidences across the country where suspects, officers and bystanders had been injured or killed during SWAT raids, with the majority of those impacted being black citizens. Many of the injuries and deaths cited occurred during no-knock raids.

Davis said the Phonesavanh family is not advocating the elimination of no-knock arrests entirely, but does believe that greater oversight of their execution is desperately needed. The bills, he hopes, will address some of these issues, if enacted. Similar proposed legislation to limit the use of no-knock warrants, animated by the incident with the 92-year-old woman, was thrown out by Georgia lawmakers in 2007.

"We recognize that no-knock warrants are a necessary evil in the fight against criminal activities, but they should be taken very, very seriously and really limited to taking down the most dangerous criminal enterprises," Davis said.

"Bou Bou was blown up based on the $50 purchase of meth that happened not in the house, not in the room," he added. "It doesn't seem that the cost warrants this kind of effort. It's totally disproportionate. Blowing up a baby is never worth it."

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Search Warrants Against WikiLeaks Staff: Justice Department, Google & US Media Silence Threaten Press Freedom

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Search Warrants Against WikiLeaks Staff: Justice Department, Google & US Media Silence Threaten Press Freedom

Kevin Gosztola

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The United States government served search warrants on Google in March 2012 and demanded that the company hand over data from WikiLeaks staff members for the purpose of an investigation into violations of the Espionage Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a larceny statute and a “conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States” statute.

Sarah Harrison, investigations editor, Kristin Hrafnsson, spokesperson and Joseph Farrell, section editor, each had their accounts targeted.

The warrants required [1] the disclosure of: all contents of emails associated, “including stored or preserved copies of emails sent to and from the account, draft emails and deleted emails; all records or other information related to the identity of the account (associated phone numbers, IP addresses, types of services utilized, account status, log files, any credit or bank account numbers associated); all records or other information “stored at any time by an individual using the account; any communications the person had with Google.

Google was apparently under a “gag” order and could not notify the staff of the media organization that their personal data had been subject to a search warrant, however, on December 23, 2014, the company sent the following notice:

As of 10:30 PM EST, it appeared that most US media organizations had panned the news that WikiLeaks had been subject to search warrants for their Google data as part of a federal grand jury investigation. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, NBC News, CNN and other outlets had not published any reports. No US government officials had commented on the search warrants or the federal grand jury investigation either.

Lawyers for WikiLeaks sent a letter to Google dated January 26, 2014, and stated, “We are astonished and disturbed that Google waited over two and a half years to notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records.”

The letter explained that WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange had a conversation with Google CEO Eric Schmidt about similar orders issued to Twitter. Assange asked Schmidt to inform Google general counsel that they should argue WikiLeaks should be informed of any subpoenas, as Twitter had done in court when it challenged the government.

Google did not provide WikiLeaks with a list of “all material provided to law enforcement or the pendency of any legal proceedings,” the lawyers complained.

“Had Ms. Harrison, Mr. Hrafnsson or Mr. Farrell been aware of such proceedings, they could have intervened and protected their interests including their rights to privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches,” the lawyers added. “While it is too late for our clients to have the notice they should have had, they are still entitled to a list of Google’s disclosures to the government and an explanation why Google waited more than two and a half years to provide any notice.”

The lawyers for WikiLeaks requested in their letter that Google provide them with a list of materials Google disclosed or provided to law enforcement, “a copy of the court order referenced in Google’s emails to our clients,” and “any other legal process or communications involving Google, law enforcement and/or the Eastern District of Virginia relating to these warrants.” They also submitted several questions to the company, including questions about why Google appears to have not initiated any legal challenge.

In 2006, Google fought a government subpoena [3] for “search records for use as evidence in a case where the government” was defending the “constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).” The Electronic Frontier Foundation explained, “The law imposes requirement for those who publish “non-obscene constitutionally protected sexual material online to take difficult and expensive steps to prevent access by minors, steps that would chill publishers of sexual material as well as the adults who want to access such material anonymously.”
Why Google would fight the government in this instance but not when the government was implicating press freedom by going after WikiLeaks staff members is unclear.

On June 19, 2014, Article 19, a prominent organization based in the United Kingdom which works to defend freedom of expression and freedom of information, sent a letter [4] along with a number of other organizations demanding that the Justice Department “officially close all criminal investigations of WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, and to stop harassment and other persecution of WikiLeaks for publishing in the public interest.”

The letter pointed to recent court documents, which made reference to a “still active and ongoing” “criminal/national security investigation” by the FBI and Justice Department over four years after it had been opened.

“Well-respected legal scholars across the political spectrum have stated that a prosecution of WikiLeaks or Mr. Assange for publishing classified material or interacting with sources could criminalize the news gathering process and put all editors and journalists at risk of prosecution,” the letter declared.

In May 2014, government attorneys confirmed for a second time [5] that the criminal investigation was not over, as they fought a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) for records on “individuals targeted for surveillance” for their support or interest in WikiLeaks.
Unknown officials anonymously claimed [6] to Washington Post reporter Sari Horowitz in November 2013 that charges would not be brought against Assange for “publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting US news organizations and journalists.”

What the Post’s story overlooked or neglected was how the Justice Department could potentially pursue charges that would essentially criminalize the communication of classified information in the course of engaging in journalism. It also failed to highlight the grand jury that remains empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia.

Additionally, the broadly tailored search warrants are evidence of the fact that the government refuses to recognize that WikiLeaks is staffed by journalists and editors. It refuses to recognize that the organization’s act of publishing US government documents is an act of journalism.

The Justice Department’s conduct in the grand jury investigation is similar to its conduct in the prosecution of journalist Barrett Brown, who was recently sentenced [7] to five years and three months in jail. The government criminalized people from all over the world who contributed to his think tank, Project PM, by treating these people, some of them journalists, as if they were somehow engaged in a conspiracy.

“The government sought from this court a subpoena by which to obtain the identities of all of our contributors,” Brown recalled in his sentencing statement. The judge denied that motion, but, according to Brown, the government still attempted to obtain the records through other means.

Throughout Brown’s prosecution, the government—as it does toward Assange and WikiLeaks—refused to recognize that Brown is, even if he committed crimes, a journalist. Brown reasoned that the government did this so it could deny him First Amendment protections and make it easier for the government to prosecute him.
Imagine the US government had served search warrants on the editors of The New York Times. Imagine Google received these warrants, and they were as broad as the ones issued against WikiLeaks editors—and Google did not fight back. The entire US press corps would be livid, as they rightfully were when it became known that the Justice Department had seized [8] the Associated Press’ phone records for a leak investigation.

In fact, the government recently concluded their relentless pursuit [9] of Times reporter James Risen. They spent years arguing in court that he had no reporter’s privilege and had to reveal his confidential sources so the government could prosecute former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for a leak. They seized many records of his personal communications and even some detailing financial transactions.

While comparatively there may be more of a political cost to the Justice Department if they were to go after The New York Times, one never knows when there might be a presidential administration that does not buckle to public pressure, as was the case with Risen. The legal precedents created as the government pursues WikiLeaks are the same legal precedents that can always be used to go after other journalists in the future. American journalists maintain their collective silence at their profession’s own peril.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs