War & Conflict


South Africa to change constitution to legalize taking away white farmers’ land

1st August 2018

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the ruling African National Congress must initiate a parliamentary process to enshrine in the constitution a proposed amendment, paving the way for land grabs without compensation.

Ramaphosa, who vowed to return the lands owned by the white farmers since the 1600s to the country’s black population after he assumed office in February this year, said on Tuesday that the ANC would introduce a constitutional amendment in parliament.

“The ANC will through the parliamentary process finalize the proposed amendment to the constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected,” Ramaphosa, a prominent trade union leader and a close associate of Nelson Mandela, said in a televised address on Tuesday.

The millionaire ex-businessman argued that “it has become pertinently clear that our people want the constitution to be more explicit” about the proposal, which is viewed by the South African white minority as forceful expulsion that can incite violence against farmers.

There have been growing fears that the planned expropriation will deal a blow to commercial farming in the country and might put it on the verge of a food production crisis, like the one that struck Zimbabwe when it unleashed a similar crackdown on white farmers in 1999-2000.

Promoting his plan to boost land redistribution in March, Ramaphosa sought to assure white citizens, who constitute roughly nine percent of the total population, that the government would handle the controversial matter through “dialog, discussion, engagement, until we find good solutions that take our country forward.”

“There is no reason for anyone of us to panic and start beating war drums,” he said at the time, noting that nothing should prevent farming activities from continuing as normal.

However, many of the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, do not take the government’s promises at face value, instead seeking asylum abroad from what they say is a surge in violence and government-fueled hostility against them.

Last month, a call from Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to provide emergency visas for South Africa’s white farmers, who are reportedly facing persecution at home, sparked a diplomatic scandal, with the head of the South African opposition labeling Australia “a racist country” for granting refuge to white farmers both in the Mandela era and now.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.rt.com/news/434784-south-africa-amendemnt-land-expropriation/

Behind closed doors, Guantánamo secret court talks about the CIA, torture and rights

21st July 2018

The CIA used an alleged accomplice in the Sept. 11 terror attacks as a test subject to train new interrogators. Agents diapered or left naked a one-legged CIA captive during his time in secret overseas detention. Taking showers still traumatizes the alleged USS Cole bomber, whom the CIA waterboarded in 2003.

These and other details emerged from McClatchy’s review of 1,300 pages of partially declassified transcripts of Guantánamo’s secret death-penalty case sessions that have been gradually made public since February.

Although still heavily redacted, the transcripts show a consistent theme across 30 hours of closed war-crimes hearings: When the public and accused terrorists aren’t allowed to listen, the legal arguments are often about the CIA’s secret overseas prison network, the circumstances of Guantánamo detention and how now outlawed Bush-era interrogation methods might affect future justice.

In 2002 and 2003, “Essentially the United States government is running a Turkish prison. And that’s an insult, probably, to Turkey, frankly,” Navy Cmdr. Brian Mizer, a defense attorney, told a judge in a May 2014 court argument initially labeled top secret.

To mount a proper death-penalty defense in the USS Cole bombing case, Mizer said, his team needs “the gritty, granular detail” of what U.S. agents did to Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the Saudi man accused of plotting al-Qaida’s suicide bombing that killed 17 American sailors on Oct. 12, 2000. His jury needs to “smell the urine, the feces, the blood, the sweat and see just how vile and disgusting this process was.” Then, if Nashiri were convicted, defense lawyers can ask the jury, “Do you have to kill him now?”

The transcripts come from a renewed Pentagon effort to clear a four-year backlog of transcripts at the Guantánamo court. In December, the Sept. 11 trial judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, complained to prosecutors that the government wasn’t following his order to “expeditiously” release an unclassified version of the transcripts for the public to see, according to the declassified tranche.

Before the transcripts were released, security officials blacked out portions that remain classified and began posting redacted versions on a Pentagon website in February.

What has emerged is a puzzling patchwork of information. Some full pages are blacked out. Sometimes the censors released only fragments of sentences, making for quirky reads like this, which came at the end of four full pages of remarks that are entirely blacked out: Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, declares on Jan. 11, 2018, “When the transcript comes out, they’ll all be able to see all the stuff I just said because [REDACTED].”

Still, the transcripts yielded some intriguing information from hearings that were closed to both the public and the defendants:

  • Guantánamo’s covert lockup, Camp 7, was built in 2004. That was two years before the CIA delivered Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the accused chief plotter of the Sept. 11 attacks, and 13 other black-site captives to the island prison for trial. The year of construction, revealed in June 3, 2016, testimony, was long considered secret — so much so that the prison commander declined to answer the question during a meeting with reporters in June, even as he made a pitch for money from Congress to build a more efficient $69 million version, complete with a hospice wing for aging captives.
  • A defense attorney declared in May that from their September 2006 arrival at Guantánamo until January 2007, those accused of planning the Sept. 11 attacks were “essentially entirely CIA prisoners” — not strictly detainees of the U.S. military. “I’ve never disclosed that information to anybody,” defense attorney Jay Connell told the judge, according to a declassified transcript. In open court he had used an approved intelligence-community talking point that Camp 7 “continued under CIA operational control for some period of time.” Those four months matter because in January 2007 FBI agents interrogated the terror suspects to gather evidence apart from their years of CIA abuse. And now defense lawyers want the judge to exclude those so-called clean-team interrogations from trial as tainted by torture.
  • In CIA custody, alleged 9/11 plot deputy Walid bin Attash “was stripped of his clothes and photographed while nude; he was subjected to long periods of nudity; he was interrogated while nude,” defense attorney Cheryl Bormann told a war court judge on Feb. 25, 2016, a description that was not contained in the declassified section of the torture report released by the Senate intelligence committee. “When not forced to urinate and defecate into a diaper, he was forced to urinate and defecate into a bucket while monitored.”
  • In a January hearing, Air Force Capt. Brian Brady, a defense lawyer, told the judge that defense lawyers need to know what U.S. intelligence agencies are operating at Guantánamo. If there was an active presence of the National Security Agency or Defense Intelligence Agency at the detention center, Brady argued, lawyers might be able to argue that some trial evidence was manipulated by the intelligence community.
n an image obtained by McClatchy. The 9/11 charge sheet says he went by “Khallad,” an alias.

Pohl inquired: “Let’s say, for example, either the CIA or the detention facility themselves record a conversation, and then they forward the recording or the information to the NSA or the DIA. Would that be the type of involvement you’re talking about, or are you talking about the direct involvement at the time?” Brady replied: “Both, judge.”

In February 2007, Khalid Sheik Mohammed reportedly boasted to a military panel that he personally beheaded Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl “with my blessed right hand.” Mohammed has never been charged with the 2002 murder in Pakistan. But in a passing remark at the same closed January session, prosecutor Bob Swann told the judge that Mohammed “has provided many statements” about the grisly beheading — leaving unclear whether they were obtained through surveillance or interrogations.

The transcripts also provide new details about day-to-day operations at Camp 7, for high-value detainees, such as the 9/11 plotters, who were waterboarded, sleep-deprived, had their heads slammed into walls and were subjected to forced rectal feeding or rehydration during their years of secret CIA custody:

  • A Navy medic and nurse are on duty around the clock but there generally is no after-hours doctor on site.
  • Each cell has an adjoining outdoor recreation yard that each inmate can open or close, one commander said.
  • At times the detention center has allowed communal prayer.
  • The U.S. military videotapes “forced cell extractions,” a tackle-and-shackle technique to remove a defiant inmate from a cell but troops don’t record when guards force a defiant captive into his cell.

In early 2016, two Pentagon intelligence programs classified above top secret called ACCMs, Alternative Compensatory Control Measures, were operating at Guantánamo. They were so highly classified that only the few officials who were deemd ACCM “indoctrinated” were allowed to stay in the courtroom while the measures were discussed. Any discussion of the program is blacked out in the released transcripts. Later that year, a transcript shows, one of the ACCMs had been disbanded. Their code names, however, are still secret.

U.S. quits U.N. human rights body, citing bias vs. Israel, alarming critics

20th June 2018

The United States withdrew from a “hypocritical and self-serving” United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform, a move activists warned would make advancing human rights globally even more difficult.

Standing with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting U.S. efforts to reform the council. She also criticized countries which shared U.S. values and encouraged Washington to remain, but “were unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo.”

Washington’s withdrawal is the latest U.S. rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

It also comes as the United States faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its “unconscionable” policy.

“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo. She did not mention Saudi Arabia, which rights groups pushed to be suspended in 2016 over killings of civilians in the Yemen war.

Among reforms the United States had pushed for was to make it easier to kick out member states with egregious rights records. Currently a two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly is needed to suspend a member state.

Haley also said the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. decision.

The United States has long shielded its ally Israel at the United Nations. In citing what it says is bias against Israel, the administration of President Donald Trump could further fuel Palestinian arguments that Washington cannot be a neutral mediator as it prepares to roll out a Middle East peace plan. Washington also relocated its embassy to Jerusalem after recognizing it as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of U.S. policy.

The United States is half-way through a three-year term on the 47-member Geneva-based body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if it was not overhauled.

 

 

 

source/read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/amid-withdrawal-threat-pompeo-haley-speak-u-n-151017726.html?.tsrc=bell-brknews

Costs of Snowden leak still mounting 5 years later

5th June 2018

National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods five years ago, but intelligence chiefs complain that revelations from the trove of classified documents he disclosed are still trickling out.

That includes recent reporting on a mass surveillance program run by close U.S. ally Japan and on how the NSA targeted bitcoin users to gather intelligence to support counterterrorism and to combat narcotics and money laundering. The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to Snowden documents, published stories on both subjects.

The top U.S. counterintelligence official said journalists have released only about 1 percent taken by the 34-year-old American, now living in exile in Russia, “so we don’t see this issue ending anytime soon.”

“This past year, we had more international, Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever,” Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at a recent conference. “Since 2013, when Snowden left, there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff that’s been leaked.”

On June 5, 2013, The Guardian in Britain published the first story based on Snowden’s disclosures. It revealed that a secret court order was allowing the U.S. government to get Verizon to share the phone records of millions of Americans. Later stories, including those in The Washington Post, disclosed other snooping and how U.S. and British spy agencies had accessed information from cables carrying the world’s telephone and internet traffic.

Snowden’s defenders maintain that the U.S. government has for years exaggerated the damage his disclosures caused. Glenn Greenwald, an Intercept co-founder and former journalist at The Guardian, said there are “thousands upon thousands of documents” that journalists have chosen not to publish because they would harm peoples’ reputation or privacy rights or because it would expose “legitimate surveillance programs.”

“It’s been almost five years since newspapers around the world began reporting on the Snowden archive and the NSA has offered all kinds of shrill and reckless rhetoric about the ‘damage’ it has caused, but never any evidence of a single case of a life being endangered let alone harmed,” Greenwald said.

U.S. intelligence officials say they are still counting the cost of his disclosures that went beyond actual intelligence collected to how it was collected. Evanina said intelligence agencies are finishing their seventh classified assessment of the damage.

Joel Melstad, a spokesman for the counterintelligence center, said five U.S. intelligence agencies contributed to the latest damage assessment, which itself is highly classified. Melstad said damage has been observed or verified in five categories of information the U.S. government keeps classified to protect national security.

According to Melstad, Snowden-disclosed documents have put U.S. personnel or facilities at risk around the world, damaged intelligence collection efforts, exposed tools used to amass intelligence, destabilized U.S. partnerships abroad and exposed U.S. intelligence operations, capabilities and priorities.

“With each additional disclosure, the damage is compounded — providing more detail to what our adversaries have already learned,” Melstad said.

Steven Aftergood, a declassification expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said he thinks intelligence agencies are continuing to do Snowden damage assessments because the disclosures’ relevance to foreign targets might take time to recognize and understand. He said the way that intelligence targets adapt based on information revealed and the impact on how the U.S. collects intelligence could continue for years. But he said that any damage that Snowden caused to U.S. intelligence partners abroad would have been felt immediately after the disclosures began in 2013.

Moscow has resisted U.S. pressure to extradite Snowden, who faces U.S. charges that could land him in prison for up to 30 years. From exile, Snowden often does online public speaking and has been active in developing tools that reporters can use, especially in authoritarian countries, to detect whether they are under surveillance.

Snowden supporters say that the government is exaggerating when it claims he took more than 1 million documents and that far fewer have actually been disclosed.

 

 

source/read more: https://apnews.com/797f390ee28b4bfbb0e1b13cfedf0593/Costs-of-Snowden-leak-still-mounting-5-years-later

Russia Says It Told U.S. Where in Syria It Was Allowed to Bomb

23 April 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has claimed that Moscow dictated where U.S., British and French forces were allowed to attack in the weekend’s air strikes on suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities, Sky News reported.

Coalition forces destroyed three storage and production sites in response to an alleged April 7 chemical attack on civilians that killed at least 40 people in the rebel-held city of Douma, near Damascus.

Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denied that a chemical attack took place. Investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were trying to reach Douma to establish what happened but were struggling to gain access.

According to Lavrov, Russia had been in contact with the coalition in the days leading up to the attack, dictating its “red lines” beyond which air strikes would be considered unacceptable. Russian officials had previously warned that any attacks on Syrian territory would result in Russian retaliation.

“There were military leadership contacts between generals, between our representatives and the coalition leadership,” Lavrov told state news agency RIA. “They were informed about where our red lines are, including red lines on the ground, geographically. And the results show that they did not cross these red lines.”

The U.S. and Russia use a so-called “deconfliction” telephone-line communication channel to avoid accidental clashes in Syria. The country has become a congested war zone in which multiple nations are fielding forces to pursue differing interests. It is likely the line was used in the run-up to the weekend’s attacks, but for the two sides to be discussing the acceptability of specific targets would be unusual.

hough the attacks were lauded as “precise and overwhelming” by a Pentagon spokesman, the military admitted it was unlikely that it would be able to completely stop Assad’s chemical program…

 

 

 

 

source/read more: http://www.newsweek.com/now-russia-says-it-told-us-where-syria-it-was-allowed-bomb-895204?amp=1

Infowars’s Alex Jones blasts Trump over airstrikes: ‘He’s crapping all over us’

14th April 2018

Infowars founder Alex Jones ripped into President Trump on Friday night after the president authorized military airstrikes in Syria, saying the decision made him “sick.”

“If he had been a piece of crap from the beginning, it wouldn’t be so bad,” a visibly emotional Jones said of Trump. “We’ve made so many sacrifices and now he’s crapping all over us. It makes me sick.”

Jones said the decision to strike Syria was especially painful because Trump had been “doing so good.”

“Trump’s now a fraud,” Jones later said. “Done.”

“F— Trump,” he vented Friday.

The conspiracy theorist, who interviewed Trump in 2015 during the presidential race, said in January that the president had called him several times in the previous months but he missed the calls.

His comments late Friday came after Trump announced he had ordered “precision strikes” against Syria in retaliation for an apparent chemical weapons attack last weekend by the forces of Syrian leader Bashar Assad

 

 

 

source/read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/383141-infowars-alex-jones-cries-over-trump-airstrikes-hes-crapping