i find it extraordinary that this wonderful woman is still unable to grasp that the saudis (like the pakistanis and the israelis) helped organise 9/11 because that was what the US wanted them to do
Will Shifting Loyalties in the Middle East (and Fracking) Bring Truth about 9/11?
Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel, Dec 11 2013
As the IBT reported yesterday, Congressman Walter Jones recently managed to get intelligence gatekeeper Mike Rogers to share the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry into 9/11 that show Saudi involvement in the plot.
It took Jones six weeks and several letters to the House Intelligence Committee before the classified pages from the 9/11 report were made available to him. Jones was so stunned by what he saw that he approached Rep. Lynch, asking him to look at the 28 pages as well. He knew that Lynch would be astonished by the contents of the documents and perhaps would join in a bipartisan effort to declassify the papers.
He has now joined with Stephen Lynch in an effort to allow all of us to read about Saudi involvement in 9/11.
“I was absolutely shocked by what I read,” Jones told International Business Times. ”What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me. I cannot go into it any more than that. I had to sign an oath that what I read had to remain confidential. But the information I read disappointed me greatly.” The public may soon also get to see these secret documents. Last week, Jones and Lynch introduced a resolution that urges President Obama to declassify the 28 pages, which were originally classified by President George W. Bush.
And it’s not just the original findings about Saudi financial support for the terrorists. As IBT also notes, more recent reporting from Florida reveals possible ties between Saudi princes and the hijackers. Senator Bob Graham continues his efforts to get people to look more closely at the Saudi role. The below Real News Network interview with him is a worthy review:
And there is reason to believe NSA intercepts that were reviewed neither by the JICI nor the 9/11 Commission implicate Saudis in the attack. All that, as well as details on how the Saudis refused to cut off funding for terrorism until at least 2009, has been suppressed for 12 years because our relationship with the Saudis was deemed more important than our need to publicly understand the roots of the worst terrorist attack on US soil. While it’s very early yet, Congress, many members of which who are funded indirectly by Saudis, are doing everything they can to ensure the Saudis remain ascendant in the Middle East. But if an Iran deal succeeds, and if we continue to wean ourselves from Saudi oil by replacing our ill-considered reliance on them with ill-considered efforts that ruin our own groundwater via fracking, then it may become politically possible to admit that individual Saudis had much more responsibility for 9/11 than, say, Saddam. But there may be good reason to admit to that now. After all, Bandar flunkie (and the aide of a man who formally suppressed this information) just issued this warning.
An atmosphere this poisonous is dangerous, to say the least. The incentive for the Saudis to engage in all kinds of self-help that Washington would find less than beneficial, even destructive, is significant and rising. Driven into a corner, feeling largely abandoned by their traditional superpower patron, no one should doubt that the Saudis will do what they believe is necessary to ensure their survival. It would be a mistake to underestimate their capacity to deliver some very unpleasant surprises: from the groups they feel compelled to support in their escalating proxy war with Iran, to the price of oil, to their sponsorship (and bankrolling) of a much expanded regional role for Russia and China at US expense.
While the suppressed evidence shows more evidence that individual princes supported 9/11 than that the Saudi state did, plenty of still powerful princes have proven their ability to foster terrorism when need be. Particularly as Syria remains a rising source of volatility in the Middle East, it would be well for us to understand how deeply support for 9/11 extended 12 years ago.
Assuming this is accurate, I do not share Putin’s belief that the West is genuinely frightened of the Jihadis currently swarming through Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Putin, according to this, imagines that by paying for these Jihadis, Bandar is doing something against the will of the West. I disagree. In my opinion, Bandar’s Jihadis are a direct expression of the will of the West, though of course a deniable will, and one that the West does deny, because the West wants not only that these swarms of Jihadis should exist, and that they should overrun existing governments in the so-called Muslim World, but that it (the West) should be able to maintain publicly that they are a fearful menace, and should be able to impose draconian security measures at home and everywhere else, such as reading all electronic mail, such as assassination at will, and so forth – RB
Bandar Carries a Revised Initiative about Syria … and Putin Rejects it
Daoud Rammal, Al-Manar (Translated/Interpreted by Intibah and Ghassan)
The meeting last week in Moscow between Putin and Bandar was cloaked in media silence and nothing transpired to the rest of the world about it until Al Manar once again published “leaks” giving the details in the article attached. These again are “leaks” from a “close and reliable source” in Russia. It is quite obvious that after the abysmal failure of Bandar’s first visit to Putin back in August, and after his sheer disappointment that the US did not manage to strike Syria, he went to Russia again with a revised agenda in a desperate attempt to gain some face-saving scores in order to save him from utter humiliation both domestically and overseas. Basically Bandar had the audacity to go back and tell Putin that he agrees that when Geneva II is convened, Assad should remain as President during this interim period on condition that the administrative power is put in the hands of an interim government which shall represent all factions, loyalists and opposition, on condition that it is headed by the opposition. During this period Saudi Arabia wishes that the Russian leadership puts pressure on Assad in order that he does not call for Presidential elections in 2014 and that he stays in power during this interim period until a new Constitution is written and approved, after which general and Presidential elections can be held. He also said Saudi Arabia is prepared to take into consideration contributing to the cost of rebuilding Syria. Putin’s answer to Bandar was:
- Syria is scoring a lot of victories and that the opposition that is armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey are facing defeat.
- The armed forces supported by Saudi Arabia have nothing to do with the opposition that wants democratic changes and, if anything, their intervention has destroyed that opposition.
- The armed forces that you refer to as opposition is in our view nothing more than terrorists and the true opposition is represented by civilians.
- Neither us nor the Syrians need Saudi Money to rebuild Syria.
- Allies of Syria whether it is ourselves, Iran or China have enough technical and financial prowess which enables them to rebuild Syria to be better than what it was.
- The Russian Federation and the US have reached a stable and final understanding about the situation in Syria and the region, and the US side is equally as convinced as we are that Takfiri terrorism represents a danger to US security as well as to Russian and global security.
- Europe has come very close to understanding the US position and voices are starting to get heard in fear of the terrorists returning to Europe after they have allowed them to leave to go to Syria.
- We advise you, as we advise all of those who are opposing the peaceful and political resolution in Syria to change your policies and stop sectarian instigations and supporting terrorism, because it is a double edged sword that will rebound inside Saudi Arabia and gather momentum in a manner that you will not be able to control.
- Your current position and your constitution do not put you in the right position to take a leading role in changing other nations regimes and establishing human rights for as long as your own people suffer from a lack of political, religious and information freedom and, women have not earned yet the most simple of their rights.
wonderfully clear example of how jews let their tribal loyalty dictate their lying political statements
The Last Taboo: It’s harder in USAia to come out as an atheist politician than a gay one. Why?
Jennifer Michael Hecht, Politico, Dec 9 2013
Last August, Bill Maher asked his guest, newly retired Rep Barney Frank, if he felt liberated now that he was a private citizen. Frank said he did, since he no longer gets phone calls saying someone screwed something up and he has to unscrew it. Maher pressed on, saying:
You were in a fairly safe district. You were not one of those Congress critturs who have to worry about every little thing. You could come on this show and sit next to a pot-smoking atheist, and it wouldn’t bother you.
Frank shot back: “Which pot-smoking atheist were you talking about?” Then he pointed back and forth to Maher and himself. The audience loved it. Maher doubled over in laughter and delight. But while few seemed to care about Frank’s pot-smoking admission, atheists across the country, myself included, were disappointed that he hadn’t acknowledged his lack of religious belief sooner, when it could have made a real difference. We were left wondering why a man who served 16 terms in Congress and who bravely came out as gay all the way back in 1987 felt the need to hide his atheism until he was out of office. Was it really harder to come out as an atheist politician in 2013 than as a gay one 25 years ago? Incredibly, the answer might be yes. For starters, consider that there is not a single self-described atheist in Congress today. Not one. It wasn’t until 2007 that Rep Pete Stark, a Democrat from Northern California, became the first Congress crittur and the highest-ranking public official ever to admit to being an atheist. And even he framed it in terms of religious affiliation, calling himself “a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.” Stark was elected twice after this, but when the 20-term crittur lost his seat last year, it was to a 31-year-old primary challenger who attacked him as irreligious, citing among other things Stark’s vote against our national motto: “In God We Trust.” Indeed, the same year that Stark came out, the Secular Coalition of USAia was able to identify only five atheist public officials in the entire US. After Stark and a Nebraska state senator, the third-highest ranking atheist was a school-board president from Berkeley, California. This despite the fact that, according to a 2012 Pew report, 6% of USAians say they don’t believe in a higher power. That leaves at least 15 million USAians without any elected officials to represent their point of view. Basically, atheism is still as close as it gets to political poison in US electoral politics. A recent Gallup poll found (once again) that atheists are the least electable among several under-represented groups. 68% of USAians would vote for a well-qualified gay or lesbian candidate, for example, but only 54% would vote for a well-qualified atheist.
Seven state constitutions even still include provisions prohibiting atheists from holding office, though they are not enforced. One of those is liberal Maryland, which also has a clause that says, essentially, that non-believers can be disqualified from serving as jurors or witnesses. When I spoke recently with Frank, he told me his decision not to come out as an atheist wasn’t a matter of political expedience. He said:
Atheism didn’t come up. It wasn’t relevant to policy.
He mentioned his contributions to secularism and the separation of church and state, such as his fight against Rick Santorum’s bid to make faith-based organizations eligible for tax funding. Frank told me that for many years he had “affirmed” instead of swearing an oath. He said:
I haven’t said ‘so help me God’ in a very long time, but no one notices.
But Frank also told me he avoids the term “atheist” because people don’t like it. He said:
Atheist is a harsh word. It sounds like a repudiation to people. It sounds aggressive.
Many people feel the same way, and some have tried to coin new, less charged words. “Non-theist” and “non-believer” are popular. Instead of running away from “atheist,” though, we should take a lesson here from the gay rights movement, which reclaimed a word that had been used as a slur, “queer”, and made it a rallying cry. And what better time than now? Last week the Freedom From Religion Foundation illuminated an 8 ft scarlet “A” in Chicago’s Daley Plaza, right between a manger and a menorah. In New York, a Times Square billboard sponsored by USAian Atheists asks: “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” Call it the War on Christmas if you want. It’s the best time of year to get our message out. What we need most is for more elected officials to come out of the shadows and admit what they (don’t) believe. We know there must be some closeted atheists in Congress. Out of 535 Congress critturs, simple math tells us so. And there must be countless more holding state and local office. It’s time for them to show up and make a little noise. After all, ’tis the season. I’ve been an outspoken member of the secular community since 2003, when I wrote Doubt: A History, which tells the story of religious and philosophical doubt all over the world. I decided to go public as an atheist during Bush 43’s presidency, when the pressure brought to bear on the government by the religious right seemed to demand that atheists be more vocal in response. This isn’t just about opposing the rise of the religious right in US politics, though. In fact, there is a much richer tradition of USAian atheism than many realize. To start, we atheists had a kindred spirit in Thomas Jefferson, who was often accused of being one of us. In 1787, Jefferson wrote in a letter to his nephew:
Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than of blindfolded fear. … Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you.
Jefferson fought tirelessly for the separation of church and state and created the University of Virginia to be the first secular university. He was not alone. John Adams wrote in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli that ours was no more a Christian country than a Jewish or Islamic one. The Senate unanimously approved the treaty. Of course, there remains a fierce debate among historians about just how religious USAia’s founding fathers were, but it’s clear why Jefferson and Adams’s generation felt so strongly about religious freedom. At least in part, it was because they were not far removed from an era of heretics being tortured and burned alive in the town square. They remembered the excessive force of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, and they did not want the US ever to witness such horrors. Today, the horrors of religion are more often about ignorance and inequality, but they are still there. Other presidents were also less than religious. James Monroe is not known to have had any religious affiliation or beliefs, nor is Abraham Lincoln. After his death, Lincoln’s wife reported:
Mr Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words.
His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, agreed, saying:
He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term.
This was confirmed by another of Lincoln’s closest friends, Ward Hill Lamon, who knew Lincoln in his early years in Illinois, was with him during the whole Washington period and later wrote his biography. As Lamon put it:
Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men.
William Taft, before becoming president, turned down the post of president of Yale University, then affiliated with the Congregationalist Church, saying:
I do not believe in the divinity of Christ.
According to a 1908 article in the NYT:
The report is being energetically circulated that Secretary Taft is an atheist.
Taft did not deny it, but continued to attend Unitarian church services. And when he ran against the famously religious William Jennings Bryan, Taft was viciously attacked for his irreligion but still won handily. These presidents reflected trends in the nation at large. True, the 19th century saw huge religious revivals, but there were also a host of popular speakers who traveled the country raising awareness about free thought. Ernestine Rose and later Robert Ingersoll, called “The Great Agnostic,” were tremendously popular on the lecture circuit. In the early 20th century, the Scopes Trial seemed to put to rest religious protests against evolution. No one at the time would have guessed the issue would rise again later in the century. The climate allowed for honesty. To take just one example, in 1910 Thomas Edison was asked by the NYT if he thought it possible to communicate with the dead. He replied:
No. All this talk of an existence for us as individuals beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life, our desire to go on living, our dread of coming to an end as individuals. I do not dread it, though. Personally, I cannot see any use of a future life.
A public figure could speak of a rationalist, naturalist understanding of humanity and the universe. The Cold War changed all that. Atheism began to seem almost treasonous amid tensions between the US and the USSR, because the Soviets were officially and emphatically against religion. Joseph McCarthy famously used the phrase “godless communists” to bash the political left and others he considered his enemies. In this context, Pres Eisenhower signed laws in the mid-1950s inserting “God” into our Pledge of Allegiance and putting it on all our money. It had been on most coins earlier, but Eisenhower made “In God We Trust” our national motto, henceforth to appear on all bills. Things are now changing again. The USSR is long gone, and ever since 9/11 our most murderous tension is with groups of people who are fanatically, maniacally religious and who see us in the West as secular. Pope Francis recently softened the Catholic Church’s stance on atheists, suggesting they are not automatically damned to hell, and here in the US the rise of a new libertarian-minded faction in the Republican Party and its embrace of Ayn Rand, an avowed atheist (and proud Jewess – RB), has changed attitudes among some on the far right. In 1958, when Gallup first polled USAians on the electability of various groups, only 18% said they would vote for an atheist. With the number now at 54%, it’s clear that attitudes are shifting, even if we have a long way to go. In fact, the fastest-growing religious category in the US is what are called the “nones”, that is, people who say they have no religious affiliation. One-fifth of USAins are in this group today, according to Pew Research Center polling. Among adults under age 30, a full third count themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
Some of them believe in a god or gods. Some do not. They are not going to want to be pushed around by any sect one way or another, and as their numbers increase, they won’t have to allow it. Yet, US politics clearly has not caught up with this shift. Obama seems to work hard to show he is was Christian, rather than a Muslim or an atheist, both falsehoods that have dogged his political career. In the last election, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism was a constant challenge for his campaign, and evangelical Christians never fully embraced him. Then again, things do change. The Catholicism of Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan did not seem to be a problem for evangelicals, as it had been when JFK was running for president. Still, it’s been a slow slog. With not a single elected official at the national level, not even one who is openly atheist, it’s hard to see that USAia is ready for its first openly atheist president anytime soon. Melody Hensley, the chief executive of the Washington-based nonprofit Center for Inquiry, says she knows closeted atheists in Congress and believes it would help immensely for some of them to come out. We had a near miss with Kyrsten Sinema when she was elected a year ago, Hensley sighs. Although 10 other members of Congress declined to specify their religious affiliation, Sinema was the only one to list “none.” Atheist groups celebrated, prematurely as it turned out. Sinema’s office quickly issued a clarification:
Kyrsten believes the terms non-theist, atheist, or non-believer are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.
Hensley shared with me a Facebook exchange she had with Sinema shortly thereafter, in which Hensley told the congresswoman her statement seemed to denigrate atheism and that the statement seemed cowardly. Sinema replied that she would not use that language in the future but protested:
I am not a theist, nor am I a nontheist. I don’t like labels.
Frank expressed a similar discomfort with labels in explaining why for all those years in Congress he never talked about his atheism. I think very highly of Frank, but I wasn’t convinced when he told me he stayed silent about it because it wasn’t relevant to policy. Coming out as gay was no more relevant, but he did that. Yet Frank did say something that changed my view of his stance. He said:
Being Jewish complicated it for me, because with all the anti-Semitism in the world, I didn’t want to look like I was separating from Judaism.
He told me that while we were speaking on the phone, he was looking at his desk, and there he saw both a Tzedakah box and a shofar, one given to him by a gay congregation. Being Jewish was part of his identity, even if he didn’t go to temple on Jewish holidays, and he was protecting that when he kept quiet about his atheism. I’ve identified myself as a Jewish atheist since I was 12, and it’s a very fair point that Frank is making. When you grow up one generation away from an attempt to exterminate your whole people, you do not want to see your people disappear by other means. Yet the “atheist” part of my “Jewish atheist” identity is just as important. Initially after writing my book Doubt, I avoided the atheist label, saying only that I did not believe in God. After some reflection, I realized I needed to defend what I truly believe. I now call myself an “atheist,” and proudly. That choice has cost a number of brave people dearly, whether in readers or elections or friends, and I think it is both an honest step and a courageous one for those in public life. I hope the atheists now in Congress will take that step themselves, and this time not wait until they’re safely out of office.
Coming Out, Again
Hecht talks with Barney Frank about waiting until retirement to announce he’s an atheist.
Q: Why did you only come out as atheist after you left office?
A: What happens first is, it’s no longer necessary to profess religion overtly. It used to be. Atheism didn’t come up. It wasn’t relevant to policy.
Q: But you weren’t ready to say you were an atheist before?
A: “Atheist” is a harsh word. It sounds like a repudiation to people. It sounds aggressive. If I had been appointed senator, which I asked the governor to do, I would have had Jim hold the constitution and affirm. I haven’t said ‘so help me God’ in a very long time, but no one notices. I stopped engaging with religion in any way. I haven’t been in a house of worship in years, except for funerals. But I didn’t want it to seem like I was separating from Judaism. On Jewish holidays, I didn’t work. I didn’t want anyone to think, “Oh, Barney Frank is working. Why shouldn’t you?” For me it wasn’t a holiday but a day off.
Q: Didn’t you feel at all that atheists are an under-represented group who needed your support?
A: To the extent that people needed support, I’ve worked to advance secular goals. Bobby Scott and I worked very hard to fight against the religious exemption.
Q: Why did you choose to come out now?
A: Well, I didn’t plan it. I just did it on the moment.
Q: But you were so brave in coming out as gay so many years ago, so I’m wondering if you thought atheism was much more politically problematic.
A: You’re missing the point. Because with all the anti-Semitism in the world, I didn’t want to look like I was separating from Judaism. I’m sitting here looking on my desk at a shofar given to me by a gay congregation and a Tzedakah box. Being Jewish is a part of my identity, and I never wanted to seem like I was distancing myself from that.
Jailing of Palestinians who tackled Israeli killer shows courts serve apartheid
Sawsan Khalife, Electronic Intifada, Dec 10 2013
If further proof was needed that the courts are an integral part of Israel’s apartheid system, it was in abundance in a Haifa court last month. Six Palestinian men have been handed prison sentences of up to two years each over the 2005 killing of an Israeli soldier who opened fire on a bus full of civilians in Shefa Amr, a city in the Galilee region of present-day Israel. A seventh man has been given a suspended sentence of eight months. The court case, which concluded last month, demonstrates that Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated differently by the the authorities. Considerable effort was made to protect the reputation of Eden Natan Zada, the Israeli soldier who opened fire on the bus, murdering the driver and three passengers. The prosecution refused to label him a “terrorist” because using such a label would “disgrace the deceased,” Haaretz reported. The Palestinians who tackled Zada and prevented him from inflicting an even higher death toll were, on the other hand, depicted as inherently violent. The court refused to accept the obvious that those who confronted Zada were responding to his unprovoked acts against innocent civilians and were trying to defend their community. Judge Ilan Schiff claimed that Israel “cannot tolerate acts of retribution,” the Times of Israel reported. His words smacked of hypocrisy. Israel has frequently argued that its attacks on Gaza’s women and children were in retaliation for rockets fired from the Strip. For years it punitively destroyed the homes of family members of Palestinians suspected of armed resistance. Despite recognizing that Zada killed his victims “simply because they were Arabs,” Schiff effectively rubber-stamped requests from the Israeli state, which had sought the accused be imprisoned for up to nine years. Schiff only departed from that request by taking account of how the trial had lasted for eight years when deciding how long the men would be locked away. Jamil Safuri, one of the convicted, told the Electronic Intifada:
There is no doubt to anyone that this was a political trial based on racist approaches. We face this discrimination in all aspects in our lives as the Palestinian minority in a Jewish state, whether in education, residency, civil rights or even the right to defend our own lives.
Had this been a case of Israelis killing a Palestinian in self-defense, it would more than likely have gone unpunished. We know this from bitter experience. No criminal charges were brought against a Jewish Israeli taxi driver who along with police shot a Palestinian who allegedly struck an Israeli police car and a bus with his bulldozer in Jayloomia in 2009. The Palestinian man, a construction worker, died of his wounds. This double standard was also the case with the killing of the perpetrator of a deadly attack on a yeshiva in Jayloomia in 2008, a precedent raised by the Shefa Amr defense attorneys in court. The Palestinian gunman who slay eight was shot in the head by student Yitzhak Danon; Danon along with Israeli soldiers then fired repeatedly into the man’s body for ten minutes. “Five hundred or 600 bullets were fired,” according to one witness. No charges were filed against Danon, who was celebrated in the media as a national hero. Morad Haddad, an elected member of the Shefa Amr municipality, told the Electronic Intifada:
Nobody was surprised by the Haifa District Court verdict. In a way, there is a positive side to this verdict. It shows the true face of the Israeli government towards the Palestinian citizens of its country. It shows that the blue ID we hold is there to serve the agenda of the government. They treat us like citizens when it is convenient for them, and like terrorists in other cases. We, therefore, have no rights in this country.
i wonder how greenwald even finds time to sleep, he seems to be everywhere on the planet, 24 hours a day, feeding this stuff to innumerable outlets
Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA
Greg Weston, Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, CBC News, Dec 9 2013
A top secret document retrieved by Edward Snowden reveals Canada has set up covert spying posts around the world and conducted espionage against trading partners at the request of the US NSA. The leaked NSA document being reported exclusively by CBC News reveals Canada is involved with the NSA in clandestine surveillance activities in “approximately 20 high-priority countries.” Much of the document contains hyper-sensitive operational details which CBC News has chosen not to make public. We have posted online a redacted version of the document. Sections of the document with the highest classification make it clear in some instances why the NSA is particularly keen about enlisting its Canadian equivalent, CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada). The document says:
CSEC shares with the NSA their unique geographic access to areas unavailable to the US.
The briefing paper describes a “close co-operative relationship” between the NSA and CSEC, a relationship “both sides would like to see expanded and strengthened.” The four-page missive is stamped Top Secret and dated Apr 3 2013. That makes it one of the freshest documents Snowden was able to walk away with before he went public in June. The briefing notes make it clear that Canada plays a very robust role in intelligence-gathering around the world in a way that has won respect from NSA. Wesley Wark, a Canadian security and intelligence expert at the University of Ottawa, says the document makes it clear Canada can take advantage of its relatively benign image internationally to covertly amass a vast amount of information abroad. Wark said:
I think we still trade on a degree of an international brand as an innocent partner in the international sphere. There’s not that much known about Canadian intelligence. In that sense, Canadian operations might escape at least the same degree of notice and surveillance that the operations of the UKUSA in foreign states would be bound to attract.
The intimate Canada-US electronic intelligence relationship dates back more than 60 years. Most recently, another Snowden document reported by CBC News showed the two agencies co-operated to allow the NSA to spy on the G20 summit of international leaders in Toronto in 2010. But what the latest secret document reveals for the first time is just how expansive Canada’s international espionage activities have become. The NSA document depicts CSEC as a sophisticated, capable and highly respected intelligence partner involved in all manner of joint spying missions, including setting up listening posts at the request of the NSA. The document states:
CSEC offers resources for advanced collection, processing and analysis, and has opened covert sites at the request of NSA.
Thomas Drake, a former NSA executive turned whistleblower, says it’s no surprise Canada would accede to the NSA’s requests. He told us:
That’s been the case for years. Just think of certain foreign agreements or relationships that Canada actually enjoys that the US doesn’t, and under the cover of those relationships, guess what you can conduct? These kinds of secret surveillance or collection efforts. I worked with CSEC on various projects while I was at NSA. CSEC is extraordinarily capable.
CSEC conducts much of its foreign cyber-spying operations from its headquarters in Ottawa, using some of the most powerful computing equipment in the country to intercept foreign phone calls and monitor internet communications in nations around the globe. NSA does the same thing, but is itself currently the target of a widespread internal probe by the US administration in the wake of leaked documents from Snowden showing the NSA has been collecting masses of information on millions of ordinary USAians. Wark reviewed the leaked document at the invitation of CBC News, and says he isn’t surprised CSEC would be asked by the NSA to set up covert foreign spying operations. He says it is not uncommon for embassies and consulates to be used as listening posts when a close proximity to targets is required. But he also points out it all comes with significant risks to Canada, namely, getting caught “can create huge diplomatic fallout.” Aside from compromising the actual intelligence operation, Wark says, an exposed spy mission can imperil Canada’s other diplomatic operations: “the political contacts, the trade contacts, the generation of goodwill between the countries and any sense of co-operation.” Wark says if a country feels targeted by a Canadian embassy, it can put everyone working there under a cloud of suspicion: “Are they really diplomats or are they spies?” As a result of those risks, Wark says, approval for CSEC to establish a covert spying post at the request of the NSA would have to come from the ministerial level of the Canadian government or even from the prime minister himself. He says:
It’s far too politically and diplomatically sensitive, and the consequences of being discovered are far too great, for it to be simply an operational matter for an intelligence agency. In the past, it certainly has been and it should be today, a matter of very senior political sign-off.
Canada and the US have long shared security intelligence with the so-called “Five Eyes” partnership. But the latest secret Snowden missive shows CSEC and the NSA becoming physically intertwined. In a reference to CSEC operatives working inside the NSA, and vice-versa, the document reveals:
Co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and integrees.
It notes the NSA also supplies much of the computer hardware and software CSEC uses for encryption, decoding and other state-of-the-art essentials of electronic spying needed for “collection, processing and analytic efforts.” In return, the NSA acknowledges that its Canadian counterpart provides the partnership with its own “cryptographic products, cryptanalysis, technology and software.” Finally, the NSA says CSEC has increased its investment in research and development projects “of mutual interest.” CSEC employs about 2,000 people, has an annual budget of roughly $450m, and will soon move into an architecturally spectacular new Ottawa headquarters costing Canadian taxpayers almost $1.2b. By comparison, the NSA employs an estimated 40,000 people, plus thousands of private contractors, and spends over $40b/yr. Drake says the problem is that both CSEC and the NSA lack proper oversight, and without it, they have morphed into runaway surveillance. He warns:
There is a clear and compelling danger to democracy in Canada by virtue of how far these secret surveillance operations have gone.
The office of Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, who is responsible for CSEC, issued a written statement saying CSEC’s activities are subject to review by an independent commissioner.
Canadian Conservatives’ cyber-bullying bill: a pretext for expanding police surveillance
Dylan Lubao, WSWS, Dec 10 2013
Under legislation now before parliament, Canada’s Conservative government is seeking to greatly expand the state’s power to spy on Canadians’ use of the Internet, including authorizing warrantless investigations of Internet activity. Entitled the “Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act”, Bill C-13 was presented by Justice Minister Peter Mackay as a measure to combat online harassment, so-called cyber-bullying, when he tabled it in the House of Commons in late November. The issue of cyber-bullying has received widespread coverage in Canada’s corporate media in the wake of the tragic suicides of teenagers Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, both of whom were victims of cruel Internet harassment. The sustained media furor surrounding the girls’ deaths has fed directly into the push by the ruling class to increase the surveillance powers of the state. Exploiting the public grief and anger over these tragedies, the Conservatives have crafted an omnibus bill that under the cover of fighting cyber-bullying greatly expands police powers to search and seize personal Internet data. Measures that sanction warrantless searches and water down the criteria for obtaining warrants are wedged between clauses that impose severe penalties for sharing “intimate” images of an individual over the Internet without that person’s consent, including prison terms of up to five years. The Conservatives have repeatedly used omnibus bills to impose regressive measures, burying cuts to unemployment benefits, the gutting of environmental regulations, and sweeping attacks on federal workers’ pensions and rights to bargain and strike within massive budget bills.
The duplicitous manner in which the Conservatives are proceeding with their ostensible anti-cyber-bullying legislation is entirely in keeping with its anti-democratic content. Bill C-13 expands police powers in two distinct ways. First, it introduces a lower threshold for the issuing of warrants authorizing the police to force telecommunications companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hand over personal information and data or force them to be retained for future police perusal. Law enforcement agencies will only have to vow to the courts that they have a “reasonable suspicion” someone is complicit in a crime or intent on committing one to obtain a warrant. Traditionally, police have been held to a much more demanding standard than mere “suspicion”, namely the standard of “reasonable and probable grounds.” In lowering the threshold for police searches of Internet use, the Conservative government is flouting a recent Supreme Court decision that argued that to empower the police to conduct searches on the basis of “suspicion” would imperil citizens’ privacy rights. The Supreme Court judges wrote:
In most cases, the state’s interest in detecting and preventing crime begins to prevail over the individual’s interest in being left alone at the point where credibly-based probability replaces suspicion.
Second and even more sinisterly, Bill C-13 will allow police and other law enforcement agencies to request telecom companies and ISPs to voluntarily disclose Canadians’ online information and communications. And to do so even outside the scope of a criminal investigation. The Canadian Criminal Code currently forbids such requests. Moreover, Bill C-13 will provide companies that fulfill such voluntary police requests with full immunity from criminal or civil penalties for complying. In other words, they are to be granted protection for participating in police fishing expeditions and spying. Ottawa criminal lawyer Michael Spratt explains:
In essence, the police will be able to ask companies to turn over data on anyone, at any time, for any reason. Moreover, the bill leaves no legal incentive for companies to be cautious in the dissemination of data, and no recourse for individuals whose privacy is compromised. This unregulated and expansive police power would result in more fishing expeditions. Given the recent allegations of government complicity in domestic spying, an expansion of police power to collect personal data under C-13 should be viewed with the utmost suspicion.
Canada’s telecommunications industry is dominated by a handful of giant corporations whose owners and executives share the right-wing political outlook of Canada’s elite, which is fearful of social discontent and has repeatedly supported attacks on democratic rights, whether it be the criminalization of strikes and social struggles or the overturning of basic democratic juridical principles like an accused’s right to know the case against them. However, were a company to balk at police requests for “voluntary” disclosures, especially from Canada’s powerful and rapidly expanding national security apparatus, the state and government would have huge leverage to force compliance through the their tight legislative and regulatory control over the industry.
Willingness and the technical capacity to hand over client information and communications to law enforcement agencies have been a prerequisite for doing business in the Canadian telecommunications industry for nearly two decades. A report published in the Globe and Mail in September outlines the Solicitor General’s Enforcement Standards (SGES), an accord that explicitly instructs mobile phone service companies to cooperate with law enforcement requests, including in the deciphering of encrypted communications. The SGES also mandates them to have the technical capacity to retrieve information about earlier communications of persons of interests to police and to transmit to police authorities almost instantaneously their current communications. Until the Globe report, the SGES was entirely unknown to the Canadian public. Interviews with representatives of major telecommunications firms made clear that their only reservation with a proposed expansion of the SGES to include Internet communications was the increased costs that would be associated with it. Bill C-13 resurrects the most egregious elements of Bill C-30, a previous Conservative attempt to expand police powers over the Internet and which was packaged as an instrument for combating child pornographers. That bill would have amended the Criminal Code so as to empower the police to compel Internet companies to give them clients’ personal data without a warrant. It was widely opposed by the general public as well as by civil liberties organizations and quietly withdrawn by the Conservatives last February. Bill C-13 provides instead for voluntary disclosures from Internet companies, which, when combined with full legal immunity for those who comply, effectively resurrects the police power to obtain data without recourse to a warrant.
Because of the centrality of the Internet in people’s lives, access to data about their Internet use would provide police agencies with vast information about their work, personal and social networks, finances and political beliefs and activities. This would enable the state to quickly assemble a detailed portrait of working-class and other dissident movements. In the face of criticism of the new Conservative bill, Justice Minister MacKay has outright lied, asserting that the police “must still obtain a warrant. There is no warrantless access.” In making this claim, MacKay referred to the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), a privacy law for the private-sector that entitles a company to voluntarily disclose client data to law enforcement agencies that possess “lawful authority” to make such requests. However, the “authority” cited in PIPEDA is not defined as a warrant, court order, or any legally-recognized court document, thus fully sanctioning warrantless data requests. Lies and cover-ups are standard operating procedure for the Conservatives and indeed the entire political establishment, especially when it concerns the mass spying programs of government intelligence agencies.
When it was revealed last June that CSEC was mining the metadata of Canadians electronic communications, MacKay, the Defence Minister at the time, repeatedly insisted that CSEC’s activities were not directed at Canadians and did not violate core constitutional rights. These statements were founded upon a spurious definition of what constitutes a constitutionally protected private communication. CSEC and Canada’s government, under the Liberals who first authorized CSEC’s metadata mining and now the Conservatives, maintain that metadata is not integral to Canadians’ communications (merely the “envelope) and therefore “fair game” to be spied upon. The opposition New Democratic Party and Liberals have tabled a motion to split Bill C-13, separating the cyber-bullying and surveillance clauses. At the same time, both of these big-business parties continue to remain all but totally silent on CSEC’s activities, its role in the illegal activities being carried out by the NSA worldwide, and its spying on Canadians’ electronic communications (phone calls, text messages, e-mail, Internet activity, etc). Instead, they have devoted months haranguing the Conservatives over the petty Senate expense-spending scandal.
there is also something in this about piggybacking on the cookies that all and sundry already use commercially
Millions caught in cell phone tracking by US police agencies
Joseph Kishore, WSWS, Dec 10 2013
With the support of the Obama administration, police agencies in the US receive detailed call and location records of USAians’ cell phone activity without a warrant, according to reports released yesterday. The information could be used to track the movements of individuals and quickly determine who is involved in protests or other political activity. Cell phone information, which includes location data, is gathered by police in at least two different ways:, firstly, by obtaining cell phone “tower dumps” of data from major telecommunication companies; and secondly,by utilizing special mobile devices known as Stingrays that masquerade as cell phone towers to intercept data in the surrounding area. A report by the WaPo (see above for links – RB) was based on information revealed in a US Senate inquiry, while USA Today published a separate analysis based on public records. Telecommunication companies reported more than 9,000 tower dump requests last year, according to the WaPo, with each request covering hundreds or even thousands of individuals. This means that the information on potentially millions of people is involved, with those caught up in the data collection never informed. In at least one instance, at Stingray device was used specifically for the purpose of political monitoring. According to USA Today:
When Miami-Dade police bought their Stingray device, they told the City Council the agency needed to monitor protesters at an upcoming world trade conference, according to purchasing records.
Since the Stingray device can be mounted in a police van and used to gather cell phone data in a given area, it can be used to obtain the identity of anyone involved in a political protest or meeting, so long as they have a cell phone turned on. Cell phones regularly interact with phone towers, or police devices masquerading as a phone tower, even when a call is not being made. The revelations of massive police access of cell phone records follow a report last week, based on documents from Edward Snowden, that the NSA collects 5b records every day on cell phone users around the world, including many USAians. (See US tracks billions of cell phone location records daily). As with the NSA, federal, state and local police agencies generally request and receive the cell phone information without obtaining a warrant, a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.
The records are obtained under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which only requires a judge to find that the information is “relevant and material” to a criminal investigation, a very loose requirement. Arguing against this reasoning, however, a federal judge in Texas ruled earlier this year:
The collection of cell-site location records effectively enables ‘mass’ or ‘wholesale’ electronic surveillance, and raises greater Fourth Amendment concerns than a single electronically surveilled car trip.
According to USA Today’s story, based on records from more than 125 police agencies in 33 states, about one quarter of all agencies have accessed records from telecommunication companies. At least 25, or one-fifth of those surveyed, own a Stingray device. In addition, local police can often access Stingray devices from state agencies. The amount of information obtained can go beyond the cell phone records themselves. The WaPo, citing an investigation being led by Senator Edward Markey, notes:
A survey of eight US phone companies has also revealed that carriers, following requests from law enforcement agencies, are providing a range of other records as well. Those include GPS location data, web site addresses and, in some cases, the search terms USAians have entered into their cell phones.
Markey is proposing minor reforms to the police powers, without any essential changes. In addition, USA Today writes:
Law-enforcement records show police can use initial data from a tower dump to ask for another court order for more information, including addresses, billing records and logs of class, texts and locations.
The Stingray devices, by mimicking cell phone towers, can also collect the actual content of any cell phone conversations or text messages. Police claim that the devices are not set up to do this, but the use and operation of the technology is shrouded in secrecy. The use of both methods for obtaining cell phone information has increased in recent years. The WaPo cites William Petersen, the general counsel for Verizon Wireless, as reporting:
The industry as a whole in recent years experienced a substantial increase in these demands, with requests approximately doubling over the past five years.
Verizon, along with other major telecommunication companies, has also been implicated in the NSA’s program to collect phone records, as revealed in documents released by Snowden earlier this year. The Stingrays, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, have generally been purchased with federal funds obtained through the Department of Homeland Security. The constitutionality of the use of Stingray devices, which are made by the Harris Wireless Products Group based in Florida, has been the subject of multiple lawsuits. One involves an Arizona man, Daniel David Rigmaiden, whose 2008 arrest for tax fraud became the first case in which the use of the devices was revealed in court documents. Earlier this year, a US district court in Arizona ruled in favor of the Obama administration’s Justice Dept by throwing out legal challenges to the evidence obtained with the Stingray device, which was used to locate Rigmaiden. The FBI is also opposing efforts to force the government to reveal the extent of the use of Stingrays. Responding to the decision of the US district court, ACLU attorney Linda Lye noted:
They’re using them. There are just very few cases where the government has admitted it.
Dismissing constitutional concerns over the collection of cell phone data, a Justice Dept official insisted that the information could be “useful” in locating drug traffickers or gang members. In fact, what is at issue is not whether this information is “useful” to police, but whether the mass collection of location data without a warrant is legal and constitutional. The collection of cell phone data is part of massive spying operations that have ballooned over the past decade, involving both intelligence agencies and police, and targeting individuals inside and outside the US. Under the Obama administration, the breadth of these operations has expanded enormously. In addition to illegally monitoring the communications and Internet activity of billions of people all over the world through secret NSA programs, the US government and police agencies are building up huge databases of license plates, photographs, and other information that constitute an assault on basic democratic rights.
GCC closer to EU-style union with joint military command plan
Hadil al-Sayegh, UAE National, Dec 10 2013
KUWAIT CITY – Gulf officials opened a crucial GCC summit on Tuesday amid a backdrop of regional political shifts that have unveiled rifts between member states. The 33-month Syrian civil war and the West’s interim nuclear deal with Iran have added greater importance to the 34th annual meeting, which has traditionally focused on economic issues. Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah, said as he opened the two-day summit:
A look at the regional circumstances among us on the regional and international sphere confirms the obvious importance of our meeting today and the necessity of discussions and the exchange of opinions regarding these circumstances and their consequences in our region. The GCC express their satisfaction with the interim Geneva deal. We hope it will succeed and lead to a permanent agreement that will keep tension away from the region. The human catastrophe is still continuing in Syria, which calls on us to redouble our efforts and to work with the international community, especially the UNSC, which has remained unable to put an end to this human tragedy.
Three Gulf leaders attended the meeting: the rulers of Qatar, Bahrain and host country Kuwait. The UAE was represented by its Vice-President, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed. The Saudi crown prince represented King Abd’ullah, while Oman was represented by its deputy premier. The recent rapprochement between the US and Iran has sharpened a call by Saudi Arabia for GCC members to form an EU-style union. Yesterday there seemed to be a step in that direction as Kuwaiti foreign ministry Under-Sec Khaled al-Jarallah said the summit would approve setting up a unified GCC military command. Oman, a key broker in negotiations that led to the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, said at a security summit in Bahrain on Sunday that it would not take part in a union. The leader of Syria’s main opposition National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, attended the opening of the summit and delivered a speech in which he appealed for urgent help from the Gulf states. Abd’ul-Khaleq Abd’ullah, professor of political science at Emirates University, who observed the meeting, said:
There’s a lot of confusion. Some are worried, some are more worried and some are more relaxed. Iran has always been on the agenda, and will always be on the agenda.
The summit comes a week after Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif visited Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE to reassure officials over the interim nuclear agreement. Sheikh Abd’ullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had visited Tehran a few days earlier. A key sticking point between the two states has been Iran’s occupation of three islands that lie close to the Straight of Hormuz. Prof Abd’ullah said Iran may be showing some willingness to open talks with the UAE over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. He said:
If there’s a serious offer from Tehran on this particular issue, it could lead to a breakthrough.
Iran pushes for Saudi isolation in the Gulf (edited)
DEBKAfile, Dec 10 2013
Two landmark events in the Persian Gulf this week attested to Tehran’s confidence. One of those events is the rapid détente between Tehran and the UAE. On Tuesday Dec 10, unnamed Gulf officials announced that Iran and the UAE were close to an agreement for the return to the UAE of three Iranian-occupied islands in the Arabian Gulf. The other event was the conspicuous absence of Oman’s Sultan Qabus from the GCC summit taking place in Kuwait this week. The Sultan has been a live wire in the back-channel dialogue between Obama and Iran’s Pres Rouhani, which led up to the Geneva interim accord on Iran’s nuclear program last month. His absence told GCC members that Oman had chosen to stand aside from Saudi dictates to the regional bloc to approve anti-Iranian resolutions that would derail the deals struck between the US and Iranian presidents. GCC resolutions must be unanimous. Muscat and Washington were undoubtedly in accord on this step. In sum, two of the most influential GCC members, the UAE and Oman, have set out on an independent path toward Tehran without regard to Saudi wishes or interests. The three islands at issue, Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, located in the mouth of the Strait of Hormus, were seized by Iran in 1971, during the reign of the Shah. The UAE has consistently claimed they are sovereign territory and demanded their return. According to our sources, Tehran is willing to discuss sharing the disputed islands’ future with the UAE. The Emirates are obviously determined to reach an understanding with Iran, not just on the three islands, but also over the vast gas reserves under shared waters.
Kuwait Emir Opens Gulf Summit with Call to End Syria War
Al-Manar, Dec 10 2013
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah opened an annual GCC summit on Tuesday with a call for an end to the “human catastrophe” in Syria and announced support for the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Kuwait hosts Tuesday and Wednesday the 34th GCC summit amid serious divisions among its members. The summit witnessed exacerbated disputes among the member states that concentrated their discussions on the US attitude towards Iran. Although many of the Gulf countries viewed the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 positively, Saudi Arabia revealed surging rage as it is concerned that the agreement may weaken its role in the region. The augmenting strategic role of Iran in the region and the decline of US dependence on Gulf sources of energy intensified the concerns of the GCC states. Analysts emphasized that the Gulf Union was proposed to compensate the strategic losses, yet Oman’s threat of withdrawing from the council tackled the proposal and deepened the rift among the its states. Qatar’s concerns about being subjected to the Saudi influence also represented a main obstacle facing the union. Economically, the disputes between Saudi Arabia and the UAE thwarted the efforts to establish the customs union.