8th March 2017
8th March 2017
24th Feb 2017
Passengers put up with endless hassles from the Transportation Security Administration in hopes it all keeps them safe. So after 11 people got past a JFK checkpoint Monday without being screened, you’d think heads would roll. Hah!
The 11 got through, apparently, because TSA staffers left a security lane open but unmanned. Three set off a metal-detector alarm and still walked on. And TSA didn’t tell Port Authority cops for two hours.
Airport police from around the country call the flap “unconscionable.” TSA has taken its “eye off the ball,” fumed American Alliance of Airport Police Officers co-founder Marshall McClain. Uh, ya think?
True, most of the 11 were tracked down and found not to be threats . . . after they landed.
The agency’s official statement on what comes next: “Once our review is complete, TSA will discipline and retrain employees.” Oh, and it has ID’d the responsible workers and “appropriate action is being taken.”
Retraining. Appropriate action. How about fired ? Sorry, no: TSA staff are a protected branch of the American Federation of Government Employees, one with the hilarious motto: “Stronger Union, Safer Skies.”
Private-sector workers who mess up so badly as to put lives in jeopardy would be gone in a heartbeat. Heck, they’d be fired for far less serious breaches.
Somewhere along the road to making America great again, Mr. President, how about privatizing the damn TSA to end all the maddening “security theater”
24th Feb 2017
President Donald Trump has said he wants to build up the US nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” saying the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.
In a Reuters interview, Trump also said China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea “very easily if they want to,” ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose actions.
In his first comments about the US nuclear arsenal since taking office on January 20, Mr Trump said the United States has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.”
“… We’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.
“It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack,” Mr Trump said.
The new strategic arms limitation treaty, known as New START, between the US and Russia requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for 10 years.
The treaty permits both countries to have no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons, and contains equal limits on other nuclear weapons.
Analysts have questioned whether Mr Trump wants to abrogate New START or would begin deploying other warheads.
In the interview, Mr Trump called New START “a one-sided deal”.
“Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it’s START, whether it’s the Iran deal … We’re going to start making good deals,” he said.
The United States is in the midst of a $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion), 30-year modernisation of its aging ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles, a price tag that most experts say the country cannot afford.
Mr Trump also complained that the Russian deployment of a ground-based cruise missile is in violation of a 1987 treaty that bans land-based American and Russian intermediate-range missiles.
“To me it’s a big deal,” he said.
Asked if he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump said he would do so “if and when we meet.” He said he had no meetings scheduled as of yet with Mr Putin.
Speaking from behind his desk in the Oval Office, Mr Trump declared that “we’re very angry” at North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and said accelerating a missile defense system for US allies Japan and South Korea was among many options available.
“There’s talks of a lot more than that,” Mr Trump said, when asked about the missile defense system. “We’ll see what happens. But it’s a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion.”
6th Feb 2017
President Trump and his Justice Department are being urged to go slow on appealing a court’s rejection of their travel ban and follow Germany’s example and put GPS ankle bracelets on visitors from the seven targeted nations until a final decision is made.
A prominent legal expert said that the administration should wait to appeal until Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch gets to the court, giving Trump a 5-4 majority and in the meantime put the tracking devices on any refugee or visitor.
“Going to the Supreme Court now could result in a widely predicted 4-4 decision,” warned George Washington University Law Professor John Banzhaf.
Wait instead, he urged, and in the meantime look to Germany’s model of using trackers on those it suspects of having terror ties — not all refugees.
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“Imposing such conditions on admission is fully consistent with 8 USC 1182(f) which expressly gives the president the authority to ‘impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.’ It is also more likely to be upheld since it is far less objectionable than a total ban,” he said.
Currently, ankle bracelets are widely used by law enforcement and immigration agencies and Banzhaf suggested that it can be expanded and would be accepted by the nation.
“There have now been several major terrorist incidents in which authorities pointed out that they were suspicious of the perpetrator, but did not have sufficient information to arrest him, nor the vast resources necessary to provide effective surveillance of everyone under suspicion. GPS systems incorporated in ankle bracelets permit one agent to track hundreds of suspects in real time, and provide computer generated alerts if he goes anywhere suspicious (e.g., near a nuclear power plant), meets with other persons likewise wearing ankle monitors,” he said.
6th Feb 2017
The majority-Muslim country of Kuwait currently has a visa ban on three of the seven countries named in President Trump’s recent executive order, calling into question the alleged Islamophobic nature of the “Muslim ban.” Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, and yet passport holders from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have reportedly not been able to obtain visas to enter the country since 2011.
Kuwaiti officials note the problematic “instability” of the countries – specifically, internal conflict and terrorism – as reasons for the travel restrictions. In 2015, a mosque in Kuwait was bombed, leading to 27 deaths.
Kuwait is not the only Arab state to take a tough stance on travel restrictions from unstable Muslim countries. Lieutenant General Khalfan, Dubai’s head of security even tweeted support for Trump’s executive order:
“We completely support Trump in his ban on entry to those who may cause a breach in America’s security.”
The United Arab Emirates also gave approval to the ban. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said on Wednesday that Trump’s ban was not anti-Islam, and that it was a “sovereign decision” of the United States that must be respected.
It is painfully obvious that there is nothing inherently Islamophobic in Trump’s executive order. The order never uses the word Muslim, and fails to target many of the most populous Muslim countries. The order is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the threat of terrorism coming from these countries.
A threat that Kuwait identified long before Trump.
30th Jan 2017
Dozens of Syrian refugees already living in the Unites States may have ties to terrorism and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is downplaying it, claiming federal agents missed “possible derogatory information” about the immigrants due to “a lapse in vetting.” Among those who slipped through the cracks is a man who failed a polygraph test after applying to work at a U.S. military installation and another who communicated with an Islamic State leader.
Information about this scandalous security lapse comes from federal agents with firsthand knowledge of the situation. They spoke to a mainstream newspaper on condition of anonymity, as many Judicial Watch sources who expose delicate information do, out of fear. This is the type of case the government works hard to keep quiet and consequences could be serious for those who blow the whistle. The news article reveals that federal agents are now “reinvestigating the backgrounds” of the dozens of Syrian refugees because somehow DHS discovered that the lapse in vetting allowed refugees with “potentially negative information in their files to enter the country.” The newspaper attributes the information to “U.S law enforcement officials” who were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Coincidentally, on the day this story broke a national newswire service reported that President Donald Trump drafted an executive order to stop accepting Syrian refugees. The president also plans to suspend issuing visas for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Under President Barrack Obama’s lax immigration policies, large numbers of terrorists from some of these nations entered the U.S., including members of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. They include individuals who have engaged in or attempted to engage in acts of terrorism, conspired or attempted to conspire to provide material support to a terrorist organization or engaged in criminal conduct inspired by terrorist ideology. Some have been convicted and sentenced in American courts.
Additionally, the Obama administration was very generous in granting citizens of Muslim nations special amnesty protections and residency benefits in the U.S. During a five-year period, Obama’s DHS issued around 680,000 green cards to foreigners from Muslim countries, according to the agency’s figures.
Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya were among the nations. In 2015 Judicial Watch reported on a special “humanitarian” amnesty program offered to illegal aliens from Yemen, an Islamic Middle Eastern country well known as an Al Qaeda breeding ground. Yemen is the headquarters of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the State Department has revealed that AQAP militants carried out hundreds of attacks including suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings and targeted assassinations.
Circling back to Syrian refugees, as Obama let thousands settle in the U.S. his own intelligence and immigration officials admitted that individuals with ties to terrorist groups used the program to try to infiltrate the country and that there is no way to properly screen them. In 2015 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) confirmed that individuals with ties to terrorist groups in Syria tried to gain entry to the U.S. through the refugee program and that the program is “vulnerable to exploitation from extremist groups seeking to send operatives to the West.”
Before that the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Matthew Emrich, admitted during a congressional hearing that there’s no way to adequately screen Syrian refugees because the Syrian government doesn’t have an intelligence database to run checks against. Additionally, FBI Assistant Director Michael Steinbach conceded that the U.S. government has no system to properly screen Syrian refugees.
10th Jan 2017
Most Americans would probably be astounded to realize that the president who has been painted by Washington pundits as a reluctant warrior has actually been a hawk. The Iran nuclear deal, a herculean achievement, and the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba unfortunately stand alone as President Obama’s successful uses of diplomacy over hostility.
While candidate Obama came to office pledging to end George W Bush’s wars, he leaves office having been at war longer than any president in US history. He is also the only president to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.
President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.
Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.
While most of these air attacks were in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also rained down on people in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. That’s seven majority-Muslim countries.
One bombing technique that President Obama championed is drone strikes. As drone-warrior-in-chief, he spread the use of drones outside the declared battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly to Pakistan and Yemen. Obama authorized over 10 times more drone strikes than George W Bush, and automatically painted all males of military age in these regions as combatants, making them fair game for remote controlled killing.
President Obama has claimed that his overseas military adventures are legal under the 2001 and 2003 authorizations for the use of military force passed by Congress to go after al-Qaida. But today’s wars have little or nothing to do with those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
The twisted legal architecture the Obama administration has constructed to justify its interventions, especially extrajudicial drone killings with no geographic restrictions, will now be transferred into the erratic hands of Donald Trump.
What does the administration have to show for eight years of fighting on so many fronts? Terrorism has spread, no wars have been “won” and the Middle East is consumed by more chaos and divisions than when candidate Barack Obama declared his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.
While the switch from US troops on the ground to airstrikes and special forces has saved US lives, untold numbers of foreign lives have been snuffed out. We have no idea how many civilians have been killed in the massive bombings in Iraq and Syria, where the US military is often pursuing Isis in the middle of urban neighborhoods. We only sporadically hear about civilian killings in Afghanistan, such as the tragic bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz that left 42 dead and 37 wounded.
Pushed to release information about civilian deaths in drone strikes, in July 2016 the US government made the absurd claim it had killed, at most, 116 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between 2009 and 2015. Journalists and human rights advocates said the numbers were ridiculously low and unverifiable, given that no names, dates, locations or others details were released. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has tracked drone strikes for years, said the true figure was six times higher.
Given that drones account for only a small portion of the munitions dropped in the past eight years, the numbers of civilians killed by Obama’s bombs could be in the thousands. But we can’t know for sure as the administration, and the mainstream media, has been virtually silent about the civilian toll of the administration’s failed interventions.
In May 2013, I interrupted President Obama during his foreign policy address at the National Defense University. I had just returned from visiting the families of innocent people killed by US drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, including the Rehman children who saw their grandmother blown to bits while in the field picking okra.
Speaking out on behalf of grieving families whose losses have never been acknowledged by the US government, I asked President Obama to apologize to them. As I was being dragged out, President Obama said: “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”
Too bad he never did.
22nd Oct 2016
On Friday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a former ruling that claimed torture to be a “political question” out of the court’s hands. It also reinstated a lawsuit against CACI Premier Technology that alleges their employees abused and tortured four men during interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in the early years of the Iraq occupation.
The ruling is a major breakthrough for the eight-year long lawsuit for the Abu Ghraib inmates who were told last June that legal action would involve second-guessing military officials in a war zone. Therefore, the judge believed that the claims could not be litigated in the judicial system.
However, Friday’s unanimous ruling determined that contractors employed by the CACI Premier Technology were subject to the same anti-torture laws that govern the country and were not allowed to circumvent or interpret the laws differently due to their positions.
“While executive officers can declare the military reasonableness of conduct amounting to torture, it is beyond the power of even the president to declare such conduct lawful,” wrote appellate Judge Barbara Keenan.
This is the fourth time this case has reached the appeals court, the Intercept reported. From here, it will return to the district court for reconsideration.
CACI denied any wrongdoing, saying in a statement released on Friday: “We’ll proceed with our expectation unchanged: exoneration for CACI. Nothing in today’s decision changes our view of the ultimate outcome.”
6th Oct 2016
Eight Afghan troops have left military bases without authorization since September alone, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump told Reuters, disclosing the total number of Afghan troops who have gone missing for the first time.
“The Defense Department is assessing ways to strengthen eligibility criteria for training in ways that will reduce the likelihood of an individual Afghan willingly absconding from training in the US and going AWOL [absent without leave],” Stump said.
The Afghan Army has previously been occasionally infiltrated by Taliban militants who carried out attacks on Afghan and US troops. Rogue shootings of foreign troops claimed lives of nearly 40 soldiers in several dozen attacks in 2012.
Before being allowed into the US, Afghans are carefully vetted for security reasons, to make sure they have not been involved in human rights abuses and are not affiliated with militant groups, the Pentagon spokesman said.
Some 2,200 Afghan troops have received military training in the United States since 2007. Other foreign troops on US military training visits have sometimes run away too, but a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the frequency of Afghan troops going missing was concerning and “out of the ordinary.”
According to the official, there was no evidence any of those who had run away had carried out crimes or posed a threat to America.
Since 2002, Washington has earmarked over $60 billion “to build, equip, train, and sustain” the Afghan troops, a quarterly report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in late July. Money has failed to buy security, however, with the internal US report saying that the NATO-trained Afghan military only controls about two-thirds of Afghanistan’s districts and keeps losing territory to the Taliban.
The US mission in Afghanistan has dragged out much longer than originally anticipated, with President Barack Obama canceling the initial plan to withdraw the majority of troops in 2014 in exchange for a blueprint to scale back forces by early 2017.
America’s combat mission in Afghanistan “came to a responsible end” a year-and-a-half ago, Obama said in July. Forces there are now focused on “two narrow missions”: training and terrorism prevention. “But even these narrow missions continue to be dangerous.”
In July this year, Washington announced that the US will leave 8,400 troops through the end of the Obama administration, citing an increase in Taliban attacks.
Low morale and lack of training to fight the Taliban could partially explain dozens of the troops leaving.
“They face a formidable enemy, with very limited resources and many Afghan troops aren’t getting paid on time,” Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, told Reuters.
The US bears full responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, who served as Russian envoy to Afghanistan in 2004-2009, said earlier this month.
Washington “cut back their presence [in Afghanistan] and did not resolve a single issue and created more problems. They carry political and moral responsibility for what is taking place in Afghanistan now,” he noted.
3rd Oct 2016
The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq in a secret propaganda campaign exposed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
PR firm Bell Pottinger, known for its array of controversial clients including the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation, worked with the US military to create the propaganda in a secretive operation.
The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon on the project with a mandate to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.
Both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.
The Bell Pottinger operation started soon after the US invasion of Iraq and was tasked with promoting the “democratic elections” for the administration before moving on to more lucrative psychological and information operations.
Former employee Martin Wells told the Bureau how he found himself working in Iraq after being hired as a video editor by Bell Pottinger. Within 48 hours, he was landing in Baghdad to edit content for secret “psychological operations” at Camp Victory.
The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light as well as creating content to look as though it had come from “Arabic TV.” Crews were sent out to film bombings with low quality video. The firm would then edit it to make it look like news footage.
They would craft scripts for Arabic soap operas where characters would reject terrorism with happy consequences. The firm also created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, which were then planted by the military in homes they raided.
Employees were given specific instructions to create the videos. “We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use Al-Qaeda’s footage,” Wells was told. “We need it to be 10 minutes long, and it needs to be in this file format, and we need to encode it in this manner.”
The videos were created to play on Real Player which needs an internet connection to run. The CDs were embedded with a code linking to Google Analytics which allowed the military to track IP addresses that the videos were played on.
According to Wells, the videos were picked up in Iran, Syria, and the US.
“If one, 48 hours or a week later shows up in another part of the world, then that’s the more interesting one,” Wells explained. “And that’s what they’re looking for more, because that gives you a trail.”
The Pentagon confirmed the PR firm did work for them under the Information Operations Task Force (IOTF) creating content they say was “truthful.” The firm also worked under the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF). The Pentagon said it could not comment on JPOTF operations.
US law prohibits the government from using propaganda on its population, hence the use of an outside firm to create the content.
Documents show the Pentagon paid $540 million to Bell Pottinger in contracts between 2007 and 2011, with another contract for $120 million in 2006. The firm ended its work with the Pentagon in 2011.
In 2009, it was reported that the Pentagon had hired controversial PR firm, The Rendon Group, to monitor the reporting of journalists embedded with the US military, to assess whether they were giving “positive” coverage to its missions.
It was also revealed in 2005 that Washington based PR company the Lincoln Group had been placing articles in newspapers in Iraq which were secretly written by the US military. A Pentagon investigation cleared the group of any wrongdoing.