Yesterday, a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee held a hearing on human rights in Russia. Why? Because we're all so damn concerned about human rights? Please. Russia is blocking the US on the United Nations' Security Council with regards to Syria. The hearing was little more than mua roi nuoc (a centuries old Vietnamese tradition of water puppetry). In that hearing, you have everything that is wrong with the United States government. Resources are wasted not just to allow the government to poke their nose in everything, resources are used to penalize anyone who doesn't fall in line with the US government. Resources are wasted to defocus and ignore pressing US issues. That hearing was a Subcommittee hearing and presiding was the always ridiculous Senator Barbara Boxer.
Committee Chair Robert Menedez is also becoming a joke -- not because the US Justice Dept stayed silent, until after the senator's November re-election, on Menedez' employment of a criminal who also happened to be a foreign national and undocumented worker. Menedez is a joke because he wastes US tax dollars and refuses to do his job. He only holds hearing on human rights if it's a country that the US is in conflict with.
Syria? Oh, yeah, Menedez can schedule a hearing on that. He can waste all of our time on that. Where's the hearing on Iraq?
The US taxpayer isn't watching millions of US tax dollars be spent in Russia each day. But, among foreign countries, the biggest budget item for the State Dept, billions each year, is Iraq. So where's the Iraq hearing. None so far in June and none on the schedule. None in May. None in April. None in March. None in February. None in January.
In the [PDF format warning] "Department of State and Other International Programs" Fiscal Year 2014 budget issued by the White House,
* Includes $6.8 billion for the frontline states of Iraq ($2.1 billion), Afghanistan ($3.4 billion), and Pakistan ($1.4 billion), including $3 billion in base funding and $3.8 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding. The Budget prioritizes core diplomatic and development activities to ensure strong, lasting partnerships with these countries and to promote stability.
* The Budget continues to support U.S. security, diplomatic and development goals in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq while scaling down funding for operations and assistance, consistent with U.S. policy.
Now that's just some of what the State Dept wants for Iraq. Let's move over to DoD. DoD's requesting money for Iraq in Fiscal Year 2014. Just for the Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq?
"Addendum A Overseas Contingency Operations" explains to us the amount is $200,000,000. Although they make it much smaller by repeatedly referring to it -- not just in tables, which would be understandable, but in text as well -- as ".2" -- because they're doing billions (in tables, there's no excuse for rendering that way in text). 200 million dollars.
What could 200 million dollars do in US cities in the next fiscal year? It's just part of what the Defense Dept 'needs' in Iraq -- you know, the country the press and White House press secretary keeps insisting the war is over in. It's noted, "The OSC-I is the critical Defense component of the U.S. Mission Iraq and a foundational element of our long-term strategic partnership with Iraq." This doesn't cover the Special Ops troops in Iraq or the 'counter-terrorism' efforts in Iraq.
No one will see that money spent in the United States and, apparently, Congress will provide no oversight as it is spent overseas.
That is their job, to provide oversight. Not only has Menedez failed to provide oversight on Iraq, he's failed to provide oversight on the State Dept. This week's scandal about alleged wide-spread use of prostitution by State Dept officials and employees, pedophilia by the same and a drug ring that State supposedly ran in Iraq (runs in Iraq?), have gotten no attention from the Menedez.
As someone who reads the Iraqi press, let me steal Barack's "let me be clear," you get off your damn ass and you clear up the drug thing immediately. Iraqi media has been covering an alleged huge increase in drugs for several years now. Smart representatives of the US government would hear rumors of an alleged US State Dept drug ring in Iraq and say, "Damn, we better investigate this real quick before the rumors spread and Iraqis are saying, 'They brought drugs into our country!' If we don't get to the bottom of this immediately, then -- true or false -- this is going to be another 'CIA brought cocaine in' scandal!"
That's when you provide oversight -- not just because the truth needs to be known but also, in case the rumors are completely unfounded, so that you can kill them quickly before they spread like wildfire. Now why might there be a scandal on this?
Maybe because there's no Inspector General for the State Dept?
Mendez is aware of it. With the Committee's Ranking Member Bob Corker, he drafted a letter to the White House on that this week:
We are deeply concerned that the two lead agencies carrying out the international programs and activities of the United States, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have been operating without permanent Inspectors General for a considerable period of time. The Department of State has not had an Inspector General since 2008 and USAID has had a vacancy since 2011. Inspectors General play a crucial role in identifying ineffective programs, process weaknesses, and wasteful spending that undermine public confidence in government.
It is critical that your administration provide this committee with highly qualified nominees who can function independently and objectively in these positions in the near future. In a recent hearing before this committee, Secretary Kerry testified that he would like to see the Department of State’s Inspector General vacancy filled quickly and noted that the White House had recently selected a highly qualified nominee. It has been over a month since that hearing and we await the nomination.
It is vitally important that the Inspectors General are able to function independently and objectively. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has, since 2007, documented the lack of adherence to proper auditing standards and the lack of independence and autonomy within the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). In particular, GAO has noted that the Office is led by “management and Foreign Service officials [, which] is not consistent with professional standards for independence;” the “use of Foreign Service Officers ... to lead OIG inspections resulted in, at a minimum, the appearance of independence impairment;” and the “OIG relied on inspections rather than audits to provide oversight coverage resulting in gaps to the audit oversight of the department.” It is imperative that the next Inspector General at the Department of State resolves these matters and protects the independence and credibility of the OIG.
When there are no IGs and there is scandal and you're the Committee over the State Dept, you call for hearings. You put Russia and the other Executive Branch grudge f**ks on hold and you provide the supervision that's lacking.
Protests have been ongoing in Iraq since December 21st. The protests continued today. Iraqi Spring MC noted the turnout in Baquba and that the spokesperson for those with special needs stated, "Disability will not keep us from rejecting injustice, tyranny and government repression." Iraqi Spring MC also notes that the people turned out in Baghdad and in Ramadi. National Iraq News Agency reports, "Thousands of citizens flocked since early hours of the day from from different parts and cities of Anbar Province to sit-ins of Falluja and Ramadi, to participate in Friday unified prayer." NINA also notes police were deployed and set up checkpoints in Falluja and Ramadi, imposing "tight security measures in the sit-ins squares." Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's forces surrounded the platform at the Baquba sit-in in an attempt to frighten the protesters. NINA notes that in Samarra, Imam Diab Hamid called on the security forces to stop using security forces against the people and the Imam told the demonstrators that "several weeks ago you voted to replace UN representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler, and now the oppressor has been relieved of his post" (UN Secretary-General announced this week Kobler will be moving onto the Congo). The Imam congratulated the protesters on their peaceful accomplishments. In Diyala the call was to preserve the unity and security. In Balad Ruz, there was the call to continue the peaceful sit-ins. In addition, Kitabat reports that in Ramadi there is a call for Nouri al-Maliki to come to the sit-in and dialogue with the protesters.
What sparked this wave of protests? Oh, the Senate Foreign Affairs has never seen fit to explore that or acknowledge what's taking place in Iraq. That would be oversight and, under Menedez, they don't do oversight. It's sad that the Committee Vice President Joe Biden once led could, and did, in 2008, explore that the future of Iraq might mean Nouri using weapons on his own people. That's come to pass, that's no longer a projection or a prediction. And it's come to pass without any oversight from the Committee that Senator Robert Menedez chairs.
Why the protests? The failure to implement the power-sharing agreement (the US-brokered Erbil Agreement) that ended the eight-month plus political stalemate of 2010. The failure to fix public services (while spending billions on weapons). The issue of the disappeared, Nouri's attacks on his political rivals in Iraqiya, and other longstanding issues. But the spark that got people into the streets (again)? Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson:
Following an outcry against revelations of abuse of women detainees and the arrest of several bodyguards of the popular Sunni finance minister, the government promised in January to reform the judicial system, including reviewing the cases of 6,000 people who have been detained but not tried or even ordered released, in some cases for years, under the country’s antiterrorism law, and initiating an inquiry into widespread allegations of forced confessions and reliance on secret informants.
And in addition to the abuse of females in Iraqi prisons, Nouri's forces have repeatedly attacked the protesters. Most infamously there was the Tuesday, April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.
Neither Menedez nor Boxer felt the need to hold a hearing on that. There concern for 'human rights' are based not on actual atrocities but on geography -- location, location, location!
Nouri's attacks on the protesters haven't stopped. From yesterday's snapshot:
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) notes:
The Iraqi military’s violent attacks on Sunni Arab protesters weren’t the panacea that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was expecting them to be, but it also cost the army 1,070 troops, according to officials.
The troops, ethnic Kurds, mutinied when they were ordered to attack a Sunni Arab town where protests were taking place, and then refused to attend “disciplinary re-training” meant to ensure that they wouldn’t hesitate to attack Iraqi towns if ordered in the future.
AFP reports that Tuz Khurmatu Mayor Shallal Abdul explains the troops are still in their same positions, they're just now working for and paid by the Peshmerga -- the elite Kurdish fighting force.
Nouri's attacks on the Iraqi people are so out of control that over a thousand members of the Iraqi military defect to the Peshmerga and that's not cause for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing on Iraq?
Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a call:
Iraqi authorities should immediately investigate evidence that federal police executed four men and a 15-year-old boy on May 3, 2013, south of Mosul. Witnesses last saw the victims in the custody of the federal police 3rd Division, commanded by Gen. Mehdi Gharawi, who had been removed from his post as a federal police commander following claims he was implicated in torture and other abuses but was later reinstated. Villagers found the bodies of the five in a field three kilometers from East Mustantiq village on May 11, near where federal police were seen taking them immediately after their arrest. A witness said the bodies had multiple large gunshot wounds, and machine gun shells were found in the vicinity. But photos leaked to the media by a police officer show police officers with the bodies in a less decomposed state than they were when the villagers found them.
"The apparent police role in the machine gun execution of four men and a boy requires an immediate investigation and the prosecution of those responsible," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "That these killings may have been committed by a unit under a commander once implicated in torture shows why abuses can’t be swept under the rug and forgotten."
When exactly is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee going to provide oversight on Iraq?
April set a record for the most violent deaths in Iraq in five years . . . until May came along and set a record for the most violent deaths in Iraq in five years.
All Iraq News reports 1 Sahwa leader was shot dead outside his Shurqat home today. NINA notes a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Kirkuk bombing injured one police officer, and Nineveh Province candidate Muhannad Ghazi al-Murad was shot dead today as he left a mosque. Alsumaria notes a bombing targeting an truck load of oil left one civilian dead. Through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 195 violent deaths so far for the month.
And no concern from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Just waive the billions on through for next year, provide no oversight at all, right?
As they repeatedly fail to provide oversight, they do get that they look like a joke, right? They do get that the world sees Iraq falling further apart (as a direct result of the US-led invasion) and sees talk of 'human rights' from the US as laughably hypocritical, right?
Here's a safe bet, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will ignore Iraq until well after the rumor takes hold -- true or false -- that the US State Dept was running drugs in Iraq and that's why Iraq has what the Iraqi press and people see as a drug crisis currently.
AFP reports, "Russia said on Friday that US data on the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons was 'unconvincing' and warned Washington against repeating the mistake it made when invading Iraq after falsely accusing Saddam Hussein of stocking weapons of mass destruction." What are they talking about?
Thursday evening, US President Benjamin Rhodes announced that the US government would be spending US tax dollars to back the 'rebel's in Syria. What's that? Ben's not President of the United States? That's right. So why didn't Barack make the damn announcement.
Saad Abedine and Laura Smith-Spark (CNN) report:
The administration plans to share its findings with Congress and its allies, and it will make a decision about how to proceed "on our own timeline," Rhodes said.
The US is supposedly in the midst of a financial crisis -- food stamps are getting cut among other necessities -- and yet Beloved Barack feels free to commit more US tax dollars overseas without even checking with Congress which is supposed to control the purse.
A line has been crossed, proxy President Ben Rhodes explained, Barack had decided. Chemical weapons had been used! You mean in March when the 'rebels' used them on the village of Khan al-Assad?
No, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used them!
It must be true because delightful "Deb" Amos told us so on Morning Edition (NPR) today: in a coffee clatch with Linda Wertheimer. Excerpt.
WERTHEIMER: Deb, for the first time, the Obama administration appears to conclude that the Assad government has used nerve gas against rebels and against civilians. Administration officials say this is a clear crossing of the red line. What does that mean?
AMOS: Well, what we are seeing now for the first time, that the administration is in line with assessments in London and in Paris. The French have been far ahead of the administration on this issue. There were two French reporters who were on the ground who said that they saw chemical weapons being used. They brought out samples. In fact, there's been a rift with the French over this issue. Now the Obama administration has been more forward in their assessments. They had been cautious. Government sources have been saying for some time that they did have this conclusive proof. Now that evidence has been made public, it's been shared with the Russians.
Poor ridiculous Linda, she tired herself out in the cooking segment (that's not a joke, the 'news' has fallen so on this crap awful NPR program that they now do cooking segments -- and not even good ones that educate, the whole point of the feature is to be ridiculous and provide laughter -- the dumbing down of America will be led by NPR). So, Deb explains, it's true, it's real and she knows it because "two French reporters" (and of course Barack -- by proxy) say so. What a sad moment for the increasingly useless and unethical (see Ava and my feature Sunday at Third on how NPR's Morning Edition has yet again broken NPR guidelines) National 'Public' Radio.
You know, one-time New York Times reporter Judith Miller saw herself as something of a 'chemical weapons' expert as well. Maybe she'll save a seat for Deb Amos on the Fox News panel? Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:
"It's not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark," said Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union's Institute for Security Studies. "It's not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack, it's that we're not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack."
Foremost among those missing items, Zanders said, are cellphone photos and videos of the attacks or the immediate aftermath.
"In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn't make sense that we don't see videos, that we don't see photos, showing bodies of the dead, and the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the affected," he said.
What a vast improvement over the stenography Lesley Clark offered this morning. And before you think Matt's piece is an indication that McClatchy's trying to reclaim Knight Ridder's glory, read this nonsense by Hannah Allam that never questions the administration's claim. Hannah makes herself a joke (although at least her peers aren't making fun of her online photo the way they're making fun of Nancy A. Youssef's Twitter photo which a New York Times reporter has gotten a ton of laughs for -- in a heavily circulated e-mail -- by comparing it to "an 80s Olan Mills glamour shot"). The job Hannah Allam can't do, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) does:
After saying in April that the evidence that Syria’s military used chemical weapons was inconclusive, the administration says now it’s clear, and the CIA estimates that between 100 to 150 Syrians were killed by sarin gas.
The CIA has lied to us all before, and the previous Administration went to enormous lengths to lie us into a war in Iraq.
So why this now?
One of the few sites that gathered the needed pre-war reporting on Iraq in real time was Information Clearing House. It's also one of the few of that few that remains standing today. A lot of people want to claim today that they did what ICH did but the reality is the others tended to run cover-your-ass pieces just in case it blew up. ICH offered original analysis and rounded up some of the best available elsewhere online and provided a real public service. So when the war drums start pounding, one of the first places you should go to find out what's really happening is Information Clearing House. Shamus Cooke (ICC) explained yesterday:
The long awaited Syrian peace talks — instigated by power brokers Russia and the United States — had already passed their initial due date, and are now officially stillborn.The peace talks are dead because the U.S.-backed rebels are boycotting the negotiations, ruining any hope for peace, while threatening to turn an already-tragic disaster into a Yugoslavia-style catastrophe...or worse.
The U.S. backed rebels are not participating in the talks because they have nothing to gain from them, and everything to lose.
In war, the purpose of peace negotiations is to copy the situation on the battlefield and paste it to a treaty: the army winning the war enters negotiations from a dominant position, since its position is enforceable on the ground.
The U.S.-backed rebels would be entering peace talks broken and beaten, having been debilitated on the battlefield. The Syrian army has had a string of victories, pushing the rebels back to the border areas where they are protected by U.S. allies Turkey, Jordan, and northern Lebanon. Peace talks would merely expose this reality and end the war on terms dictated by the Syrian government.
No, this isn't about peace. It's about so-called 'rebels' losing. Because they don't have popular support. Two days ago, Finian Cunningham (Press TV via ICH) reported:
Western-backed insurgents are being destroyed or routed from villages and towns across Syria as the Syrian army moves swiftly on to its next objective of freeing the country’s second major city, Aleppo, in the north. That clash may prove a more bloody and protracted fight than the three-week campaign to retake Qusayr. But, given their withering loss of fighters and the severance from key supply routes through Qusayr, the eventual defeat of insurgents in Aleppo looks all but assured.
The recapture of Aleppo, and shutting off the NATO weapons supply line from Turkey in the north, would then prove to be the last stand for the foreign-backed mercenaries. These mercenaries have been terrorizing Syria since March 2011 at the behest of NATO powers and their regional allies, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Western agenda of regime change to oust President Bashar al-Assad is therefore, in a word, a dead letter.
For the US backing to come, the 'rebels' had to pretend to split with al Qadea in Iraq, which they made a pretense of doing earlier this week. From Tuesday's snapshot, "The 'damage' has been that Jabhat al-Nusra has had 'funding' issues. Governments wanting to support them -- the UK, the US -- are faced with questions by their citizens of why is the government supporting people who tried to kill US and UK service members in Iraq? [. . .] So if outrage wasn't alive over the assassination of a child and if funds weren't at risk, the Islamic State of Iraq would be as welcome in the 'rebel' camp as it was last week and the week before and the week before that and . . . "
BBC gathers a number of foreign policy types to explain what's at risk. People like Joshua Landis who feels Barack "owes both the American and Syrian people a clear statement about what he sees as Syria's future borders, what kind of government he hopes to see in the future and how he will carry it out." A clear statement? He's failed to deliver any statement in the last 24 hours over the new 'policy.' David Rieff's observations include:
What is clear is that, having insisted for more than two years that it was inevitable that Assad would fall, the Obama administration now realises its adolescent progress narrative about Syria as one of the last dominoes of the Arab Spring is so much liberal internationalist, human-rights-ist wishful thinking, and that outside military help for the Syrian rebellion is necessary not to ensure its victory but rather to stave off its defeat.
Why both liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives are so persuaded that overthrowing Assad and inflicting a defeat on Hezbollah is both a moral and a geo-strategic imperative, even if the effect is, as in Iraq, to evict Christianity from one of its homelands and make Syria safer for al-Qaeda, is a mystery to me.
But this, it seems, is what the consensus has become.
And CBS News reports (link is text and video):
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, who has reported extensively from inside Syria and has spoken with her contacts there following the Obama administration's decision, said it is "pretty much guaranteed" that some of the U.S.-supplied weapons will go astray, despite whatever safeguards the U.S. put in place.
"All sorts of methods have been discussed to keep track of [the weapons], right down to numbering the shells and distributing them to specific groups. But these groups fight with one another. [And] There's a thriving black market in arms. So it's going to be very hard - no, impossible - to keep track of them," Palmer said.
Changing gears, a number of e-mails to the public e-mail account ask about hearings this week when only one was reported on here. As community members know, at least one hearing gets covered (by me) in the community newsletter. But that's not really what's going on here.
In some cases, I'm just not in the mood. Kat and I both went to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing this week. Committee Chair Bernie Sanders is still finding his 'chair' 'legs.' And to report on that would be offering a host of examples that I'm just not in the mood for. Here's one, I'm assuming he's setting the stage for two years from now if the VA has not gone paperless. But I mean, using hearing time to kindly (and he was very kind about it) explain to the VA that you want regular updates on the progress on the move to paperless records? I'm just not in the mood. I've been too many VA hearings for this nonsense of let's be kind to the VA. They've got a scandal with regards to text books (meeting the GI Bill students needs), they've got a huge scandal brewing in Atlanta and it was play footsie with the VA yet again? I'm not in the mood. And I'll give Sanders the benefit of the doubt because he is new to his position. But I'm not in the mood to write about those hearings or about how another male senator needs to educate himself on MST (including learning the term) before he next speaks about it without grasping that that's what he's talking about.
There's the nonsense like Dianne Feinstein. Fienstein's so busy trying to protect her own ass (she knew everything about the spying) that she can't do her damn job. She didn't take an oath to the NSA. She took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution." Her failure to take her oath seriously is disgusting. Don't get me started on that with regards to the Barbie Babbles Mikulski. The apologists for the spying scandal are appalling.
Kirsten Powers (Daily Beast) has a strong column on this today -- on how Congress and others are embarrassing themselves and the country by attacking the whistle-blower Ed Snowden:
[. . .] Snowden has been called a "traitor" by House Majority Leader John Boehner. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the leaks "an act of treason." The fury among the protectors of the status quo is so great that you have longtime Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen smearing Snowden as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” The New York Times’s David Brooks lamented that Snowden, who put himself in peril for the greater good, was too “individualistic.” It seems that he wasn’t sufficiently indoctrinated to blindly worship the establishment institutions that have routinely failed us. Brooks argued that “for society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures.”
This is backward. It’s the institutions that need to demonstrate respect for the public they allegedly serve. If Snowden or any other American is skeptical of institutional power, it is not due to any personal failing on their part. The lack of respect is a direct outgrowth of the bad behavior of the nation’s institutions, behavior that has undermined Americans’ trust in them. According to Gallup’s “confidence in institutions” poll, trust is at an historic low, with Congress clocking in at a 13 percent approval rating in 2012. Yes, this is the same Congress that has “oversight” of the government spying programs.
Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) was addressing it Wednesday:
Edward Snowden has been called a traitor, a narcissist, a loser and a danger to national security. Reporters have questioned whether he was friendly enough to his neighbors or why he made a good salary despite having just a GED. He has even been criticized for leaving the military after he broke his legs. His whereabouts are unknown because the federal government is preparing to file charges against him.
Such extravagant and bizarre levels of vitriol can mean only one thing. When politicians and rich pundits all join together to deliver a very public beat down, the victim of the beating is probably someone who did the people a great service.
Snowden revealed the extent of the government’s levels of surveillance conducted in America and around the world. Millions of phone and email records are turned over to the National Security Agency (NSA) in something ominously called operation Boundless Informant. Yes, that is the real name of a program which gives information about millions of human beings from Verizon, ATT, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft to the United States government. We are all under government surveillance and weasel words like “metadata” should not make anyone feel better. Big brother is watching all of us.
Worse than the government’s disregard for our constitutional rights has been the acquiescence of Congress and the courts. The Obama administration and the Bushites before them all made sure that their lawlessness first passed muster with Congress. President Obama’s first line of defense after the story broke was to announce that congress knew and approved of all his plans.
And the disgust with Congress is palatable. You couldn't leave Wednesday's embarrassing hearing without hearing citizens talking about their level of disgust with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Babsie Babbles, Susan Collins and others. As one man said, "What the hell is wrong with being a security guard? That woman [Collins] and Durbin acted like it was the same as being a child molester!" Exactly. The spoiled and entitled let their true nature show. They did it last week too. And I pointed that out here. Their concern was not about the citizens being spied upon.
Dropping back to the June 6th "Iraq snapshot,"
At today's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Senator Mark Kirk estimated that this spying would have involved as many as 120 million phone calls. (A key point Bamford made to Marco Werman was that raw data can be overwhelming and counter-productive to spying efforts.) Kirk had one issue -- which was were members of Congress spied on.
Senator Mark Kirk: I want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored -- of members of Congress. That would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this stuff, kind of a -- would give them unique leverage over the legislature?
Attorney General Eric Holder: Uh, with all due respect, Senator, I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss, uhm, that issue. I'd be more than glad to come back in a -- in a appropriate setting to discuss, uh, the issues that you have raised but I -- in this open forum, I don't -- I do not
Senator Mark Kirk: I would interrupt you and say that the correct answer would be: "No, we stayed within our lane and I am assuring you that we did not spy on members of Congress."
Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski: You know I'd like to suggest something here. When I read the New York Times this morning, it was like, "Oh God, not one more thing." And not one more thing where we're trying to protect America and it looks like we're spying on America. I think the full Senate needs to get a briefing on this.
Kirk, Mikulski and Senator Richard Shelby all agreed it was an important question. And it's important because it's them. It's too bad that they don't feel it's important for non-members of Congress. It's too bad that Mikulski's 'answer' is to call for a closed hearing. It's too damn bad that she doesn't think the American people are owed answers. Remember, in American now, 'democracy' translates as something that belongs only to elected members of Congress."
They're only concerned about themselves. That's all they give a damn about, the people mentioned above. It's wrong -- if they're spied on. After they can get promises that they weren't spied on, it's a-okay. And a security guard? Oh, that is just so beneath them they can't relate. What is it the idiot Dick Durbin said? Dropping back to the June 12th snapshot for that from that day's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing:
Senator Dick Durbin: I was on the intelligence community right at the time of 9-11. I saw what happened immediately afterwards. There was a dramatic investment in intelligence resources for our nation, to keep us safe, a a dramatic investment in the personnel to execute the plan to keep us safe. I trusted, and I still do, that we were hiring the very best -- trusting them to not only give us their best in terms of knowledge but also their loyalty to the country. I'd like to ask you about one of those employees who is now in a Hong Kong hotel and what is as follows: He was a high school drop out, he was a community college drop out, he had a GED degree, he was injured in training for the US Army and had to leave as a result of that and he took a job as a security guard for the NSA in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, he took a job for the CIA in what is characterized in the Guardian piece that was published. At age 23, he was stationed in an undercover manner overseas for the CIA and was given clearance and access to a wide varray -- a wide array of classified documents. At age 25, he went to work for a private contractor and most recently worked for Booz Allen, another private contractor, working for the government. I'm trying to look at this resume and background. It says he ended up earning somewhere between $122,000 and $200,00 a year. [Fun facts: While 29-year-old Ed Snowden may have made $200,000 a year, 68-year-old Dick Durbin makes $174,000 a year as a senator. Durbin hails from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his law degree from Georgetown University Law.] I'm trying to look at the resume background for this individual who had access to the highly classified material at such a young age with a limited educational and work experience, part of it as a security guard and ask if you were troubled that he was given that kind of opportunity to be so close to information that was critical to our security?
What is up with Dickless Durbin and his sneering at security guards? What a world class piece of s**t Durbin has become. And that's why I'm so disgusted. The people's representatives aren't even pretending to relate the people anymore. Cry baby Durbin, who cries in public, thinks he can look down on someone doing an honest job's work? Who the hell does he think he is? And Susan Collins was just as bad but with that voice that makes it sound like a goat's entered the Senate chamber.
And, as Norman Solomon (ZNet) notes, you can't even count on so-called allies:
The potential and the problem are perhaps best symbolized by the Progressive Caucus whip, Barbara Lee of California, arguably the strongest progressive in the House.
Lee provided a good statement to a local newspaper, saying: “The right to privacy in this country is non-negotiable. We have a system of checks and balances in place to protect our most basic civil liberties, and while I believe that national security is paramount, we must move forward in a way that does not sacrifice our American values and freedoms.”
Yet a full week after the NSA surveillance story broke, there wasn’t any news release on the subject to be found on Congresswoman Lee’s official website. She had not issued any other statement on the scandal.
If the most progressive members of Congress aren’t willing to go to the mat against fellow-Democrat Obama over an issue as profound as the Bill of Rights, the result will be a tragic failure of leadership -- as well as an irreparable disaster for the United States of America.And how about speaking up for Edward Snowden while some in both parties on Capitol Hill are calling him a traitor and pronouncing him guilty of treason? Public mention of the virtues of his courageous whistleblowing seems to be a congressional bridge way too far.
It's just disgusting. I'm at the hearings, there's just nothing I've seen as worth wasting my time to report on. Back to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, I don't feel the need to rip apart Sanders while he acclimates to his new position as Chair in part because it's a natural process. (I've said it before, Senator Patty Murray is the only one I've seen -- House or Senate -- become Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and hit the ground running. Everyone else has had to feel their way into the position and find their own strengths.) And I also don't feel like ripping him apart because he may be the only one in the Senate besides Senator Rand Paul who's truly outraged about the spying on American citizens. As Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) explains:
Late on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced legislation to rein in the NSA and the FBI.
His bill is called S. 1168 and it says it is designed “to limit overbroad surveillance requests and expand reporting requirements.”
Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) has a great column where he both provides the term for this scandal (Datagate) and takes on a number of idiots. If you're surprised that a number of 'left' voices are praising the spying on Americans, it's only because you weren't paying attention or you watched as people like Amy Goodman fawned over faux lefties. Maybe next time, Amy Goodman, don't gush over a War Hawk -- and don't forget to tell your audience that 'groovy' Joshy Micah Marshall is a War Hawk who cheered war on Iraq. Maybe then they'll know right away that sewage like JMM is never to be trusted? Former CIA officer Michael Scheurer has an Information Clearing House piece outlining all of the current scandals of the White House and notes, "If Americans are surprised by Obama’s deliberate attack on the Constitution, they have only themselves to blame. From his first months in office, Barack Obama has consistently demonstrated his contempt for Americans and their Constitution, as well as an intention to have his administration -- and especially Attorney General Holder’s Justice Department -- treat them in a lying and lawless manner."
As he notes, one of those scandals is the targeting of political groups by the IRS which brings us to another embarrassing NPR moment. If Tamara Keith and Melissa Block can each take their mouth of one of Barack Obama's balls, can they find time to explain the bulls**t they pulled today on All Things Considered?
The IRS scandal, you may remember, is the work of low level operatives in Cleveland, Ohio. That's the lie the IRS officials appearing before Congress trot out. Well, not Lois Lerner. She appeared before Congress but refused to answer questions. So the Congress has spoken at length to two employees out of the Cleveland office. Tamara Keith is apparently the first reporter to be allowed to review all of the transcripts of the interviews.
What does she discover? It wasn't two rouge employees and they had help from DC. It goes to "mid-level IRS people in Washington, DC." But she treats this as non-news and stresses it doesn't lead up to the White House. I'm sorry, the claim was what? The IRS officials told Congress it was low level employees -- apparently just two -- in Cleveland. And it may have just been one because the outgoing acting IRS Commissioner told Congress that the person who got an oral warning might not actually have been involved.
I'm sorry if you've been at the hearings, you know this. The revelation that the story now goes up to DC is the news. You can bury it all you want.. You can even mock one of the two Cleveland employees for being "frustrated" (listen to Tamara do the drama on that term) with the Washington people. But you can't call yourself a reporter while you've got your mouth around one of Barack's balls.
One of the two people she saw transcripts on, Tammy The Former Husky Jeans Child Model explains, is non-political. That doesn't mean one damn thing. The IRS is supposed to be non-political. If the IRS was used inappropriately -- in house or above the IRS -- the issue would not be the workers being political. The issue would be the targeting being political and the targeting went above the workers. As Mike noted earlier this week -- about the same supposed non-political -- US House Rep Elijah Cummings looked like an idiot by presenting the non-political (actually apolitical) worker (same one that's in Tamara's story) as proof that there was no scandal here. Repeating, the IRS workers are not supposed to be political, the IRS is not supposed to be political. The fear with the targeting has always been that it was ordered and that was political. What we now know is that what was told to the Congress was a lie. The IRS repeatedly lied to the Congress claiming that it was just those two employees. That didn't go higher. We now know it went to DC. That's higher, that's more than two low-level 'rogue' employees.
And I'll go further, J. Russell George needs to be reprimanded. Officially and in writing. He's the IG who exposed this. He refused to question superiors in the chain of command and he questioned the Cleveland workers with their superiors present. That's not how you conduct an investigation and don't get me started on the months that the report lingered because someone was pursuing college classes. I'm sorry, IG's not a part-time job.
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