Japan’s government has agreed to give Washington $3 billion to facilitate the downsizing of the U.S. Marine force on Okinawa.
The longstanding American military presence on Okinawa has been a sore point for many Japanese living on the strategic island, which has been under U.S. control since World War II.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to sign an amendment to the 2009 Guam International Agreement (pdf), which calls for removing 4,000 Marines from the island.
Japan’s contribution of $3.1 billion will cover more than one third of the $8.6 billion that the U.S. will spend to transfer the Marines and their dependents to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as develop new infrastructure to support them.
Under a separate agreement signed in 2012, the U.S. plans to withdraw another 5,000 Marines from Okinawa and relocate them to Hawaii and Australia. (The number was reduced from 8,000, which had included family members.)
Members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force stationed on Okinawa won’t begin moving until sometime in the early 2020s.
For many of the island’s residents, the move can’t come soon enough. Many Japanese have been calling for the U.S. to get off Okinawa for decades, particularly after American military personnel stationed on the island were convicted of raping a Japanese woman last year and gang-raping a 12-year-old Japanese girl in 1995.
To Learn More:
Japan, U.S. to OK Deal on Transfer of Marines (Japan Times)
Japan to Pay $3.1 Billion to Relocate Okinawa Marines to Guam (Agence France-Presse)
1995 Okinawa Rape Incident (Wikipedia)
Officials at a top university in the United Kingdom have bowed to public pressure and withdrawn the school’s investment in U.S. drones.
The University of Edinburgh had a $2 million (£1.2 million) stake in Ultra Electronics, a British firm that manufactures navigation controls for Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles and ground control stations.
Investing in drone development was deemed not “socially responsible” by the university as well as students and campaign groups that lobbied Edinburgh to pull out of the business.
“The covert US drone program has killed hundreds of civilians and traumatized populations in Pakistan and Yemen,” Catherine Gilfedder of the human rights group Reprieve told The Guardian. “In divesting from Ultra Electronics, Edinburgh University has demonstrated its disapproval of companies profiting from such killings, and the importance of socially responsible investment.”
American drones have been used on covert missions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism says more than 430 strikes have occurred since 2002, killing at least 428 civilians, of whom 173 were children.
In Afghanistan, British drones have been more than three times as likely to lead to strikes as American drones, according to the Bureau’s analysis of drone data recently released by the British government.
News reports of an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces in the suburbs of Damascus in the early morning hours of August 21 spreaded like wildfire. As reports were coming in, the US, French, and the British governments began to claim that there was a massacre. U.S. Government claimed that exactly 1429 people had died including 426 children. In the ensuing days and weeks the media repeatedly showed video images of ghastly scenes of dead and dying. Most of these videos were posted on the Internet and their authenticity could not be verified. Yet, those governments pronounced that the Syrian military was responsible for the massacre. As the U.S. and France prepared to carry out a military strike against Syria to punish President Assad, a UN team of chemical weapons experts were allowed after a few days to visit the sites in the Damascus suburbs called Ghouta where the attacks reportedly took place. The UN team visited Ghouta on August 27 and again on August 29. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who called it a war crime, released their report on September 16, 2013. The report’s basic conclusions were that sarin gas was used in a large-scale attack in Ghouta on August 21 and that surface to surface rockets were used to deliver the nerve agent. In making their determination about the rockets, the inspectors examined rocket parts and other ordnance. In my analysis, I examined the UN report carefully, especially its Appendix 5, which describes in some detail, with photographs and drawings, the two types of rockets they found in Ghouta. Prior to the publication of the UN report, two other significant reports were made public. One was reported in the New York Times and the other a report by the Human Rights Watch. Both these reports presented details of a warhead that could have carried between 50 and 60 liters of sarin – an amount that could explain the high casualty figure above quoted by the US government. The UN report, which was issued some time after these reports, repeated their conclusions. From my careful study and analysis of all these reports, I found that the UN report included diagrams and photographs that were in the said reports without referencing them. There was striking agreement between estimated and measured dimensions of the large warhead, which was merely a concept described in the New York Times article. It took center stage in the UN report. I describe in detail how I arrived at my conclusion. I believe there was communication between the UN team and the analysts outside, which prejudiced the report. The US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the UN inspectors as irrelevant because they would not bring to light any new information that the US did not already know. He was right. The purpose of my analysis is not to prove or disprove anything. The sole purpose is to raise questions about the integrity of the UN team’s report. Decisions on war and peace depend on it.
Detailed Analysis of the Published Reports
Alleged Chemical Attack in Ghouta on August 21, 2013
News reports of an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces in the suburbs of Damascus in the early morning hours of August 21 spreaded like wildfire. Social media exploded with Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and YouTube video uploads. As reports were coming in, the U.S., French, and the British governments were starting to claim that there was a massacre. The most stunning of these claims was an assertion by John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State that 1429 people died apparently from nerve gas inhalation of which 426 were children. Ghastly videos circulated with all mainstream TV channels showing the videos of victims. There was strangeness in the certainty of such a precise number in the chaos that would ensue after a poison gas attack. Noam Chomsky remarked during a lecture at MIT on September 10, 2013 that it reminded him of similarly precise body counts that Pentagon used to issue after encounters with the Viet Cong. They were largely made up, he said.
Internet Videos and “Independent” Media Experts
While the authenticity of these videos could not be verified, it was impossible to raise such an impertinent question in the midst of the media onslaught accompanied by commentary from “independent” experts. Several of them were veterans of the UN inspection team before the invasion of Iraq. For example, Charles Duelfer, the Deputy Head of the UN team and later Chief of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, was a regular. A veteran of the U.S. Government programs in space and nuclear weapons, he was the top CIA officer directing the investigation of Saddam’s regime and its WMD programs, his website says.
Another was David Kaye, who was the Chief UN inspector for Iraq, who is now at the Potomac Institute – a beltway think tank funded mainly by the Pentagon. A third was Raymond Zilinskas, a former inspector with expertise on chemical and biological weapons, who is now at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. He once spoke enthusiastically about the evidence presented at the UN Security Council by Gen. Colin Powell about WMD in Iraq, which was discredited later as false.
These experts were seemingly speaking in unison that there was overwhelming evidence showing that Syrian government forces were behind the chemical weapons attack. Neither the U.S. government, nor its allies like Britain and France could wait for the report of the UN inspection team, which was in Damascus at the time. They pronounced their judgment based on information supplied by their own intelligence agencies and also relied on so-called “open source” information. They condemned President Assad for not allowing the inspectors immediate access to the alleged sites and pointed to his guilt in the alleged atrocity. A common refrain was why would he not allow immediate access if he had nothing to hide.
The UN Inspectors’ Report: of questionable integrity
However, a few days later, when the UN inspectors were able to travel to the sites, the tone of the U.S. government changed. Secretary of State Kerry remarked at a press conference that the UN team was “irrelevant” since they would not bring to light any more information than what the U.S. already knew. Ironically, the UN team’s report proved John Kerry’s point and here is why.
From my research and analysis, I have come to the conclusion that the UN report as well as human rights organizations like the Human Rights Watch were influenced by bloggers and analysts closely tied to the U.S. and its allies to prove that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attacks. Consequently, they produced reports that are of questionable quality and not above reproach. This is especially true about the UN team’s comments about the rockets being the delivery vehicles for the nerve agent.
The UN team had the mandate to determine if chemical weapons were used in the alleged attack on August 21, but not who was responsible for it. In order to carry out its mandate, the team relied on laboratory reports of analysis of collected blood, urine, soil and other environmental samples. It also analyzed samples from rocket parts, munitions, etc. In addition, it conducted a limited number of interviews with survivors and doctors. It finished its work on September 13 and Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, released the report on Monday, September 16 calling it a “war crime.”
The report said the following in the Letter of Transmittal:
Although the news of the discovery of sarin gas was by then an anticlimax, what was surprising was the UN team’s assertion that it found “clear and convincing” evidence that “surface-to-surface rockets” containing sarin were used. This was clearly going beyond the original mandate. The report also described certain details of the rockets along with the direction in which they were found to have penetrated the ground at the points of impact. There were a few pieces of evidence that would be crucial at the least to point the finger, if not outright implicate the Syrian government. One of them was the bearing of the tail end of the rocket protruding from the ground. From this data, the rocket’s firing point could be estimated. A second piece was the size of the payload that could be carried by the rocket, including other details that would reveal that the payload indeed was something other than high explosive. A third piece was markings on some rocket parts which could tell where they were made.
The Role of a Blogger named Elliot Higgins
The so-called “independent” experts had already gone on overdrive giving numerous TV and radio interviews and sending Twitter messages soon after the reports of the alleged attack surfaced. Their analysis and commentary were primarily based on video that appeared on the Internet on sites like You Tube, which were supposedly uploaded by eyewitnesses. There are certain bloggers who specialize in watching the social media on particular topics, compiling such information, and then making them available with their own commentary on their own websites called blog spots in web parlance.
The BBC says that the bloggers have been providing important analysis to governments and human rights groups based on their exhaustive monitoring of social media. Eliot Higgins, known online as Brown Moses, is one of a number of specialist bloggers from around the world who have been analyzing the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It appears that Eliot Higgins was the source of much of the video information about the alleged attack on August 21.
His website has literally hundreds of video clips from different times and places that are spliced together. For instance, while reviewing a file called “Syrian Government Chemical Attacks,” I found myself watching items from events that took place in January 2013 in Adra. Photographs of rockets in this video are similar, if not the same, as in the video uploaded on August 22 following the events in Ghouta. It might be reasonable to argue that multiple instances of chemical weapon use prove the brutality of President Assad. However, from an evidentiary point of view (I am mindful of it having worked at GAO for nearly ten years as a senior analyst), interspersing photographs from different incidents would be misleading at best.
New York Times Story on September 4
On September 4, well before the publication of the UN inspection team report, the New York Times published a major story written by its science writer William J. Broad. It was based on what the paper characterized as a new study by “leading weapons experts.” The new study reportedly solved the apparent disconnect between the reported large casualty figures and the known small payload capability of rockets in question. The article alluded to “some weapons experts” who had earlier estimated toxic payloads of one or two liters, which could not explain the casualty figures. The Times did not name or quote any of these experts, nor explain how they had arrived at their conclusion. The new study claimed that its analysis showed the rockets could carry a much larger payload of gas – about 50 liters. This made the casualty figure of 1429 plausible, the study indicated.
One of the two authors of the study is Professor Theodore Postol of MIT. He is known worldwide as a critic of the U.S. missile defense program. The other is Richard Lloyd, an engineer with long experience in the defense business, who describes himself as a warhead specialist. He spent nearly twenty years working for Raytheon and now works for Tesla Laboratory, Inc. located in Arlington, Virginia near the Pentagon – another “beltway” contractor. It is a technology company largely funded by the Pentagon and claims as one of its clients the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The New York Times made available Richard Lloyd’s analysis, which consisted of seventy Power Point slides, mostly snapshots from videos, which he most likely presented to someone in the “building” as the Pentagon is fondly called in the business. He is also a former UN weapon inspector. So, knows the business and people in it well. The article featured a drawing reproduced below of the rocket with “estimated dimensions” an artist’s impression of the nerve agent cloud rising after a rocket impact.
Rockets With Deadly Chemicals
Weapons experts believe this is the design of the rockets used in a suspected chemical attack last month in Syria, based on videos and photographs posted online. Related Article »
Human Rights Watch Report dated September 10
In a report called Attacks on Ghouta published on September 10, 2013, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) credited Elliot Higgins as the source of a collage of photographs of rocket parts related to Ghouta that were included in a figure bearing the title “Diagram of 330 mm chemical rocket variant.” It also included a scaled drawing of the rocket based on what it called “field measurements” without saying who made the measurements. One of the video clips from Higgins showed two men wearing gas masks, who looked like UN inspectors, making measurements with a regular measuring tape, which is also visible in four out of the six photographs in the HRW diagram shown later. It would be difficult to make precise measurements with such a tape. Also the exercise appeared rather cursory. However, the drawing shows precise dimensions including those of the internal parts of the rocket not visible from outside. It would be quite a feat to produce such a drawing without either actually examining a disassembled rocket, or X-raying it.
The UN Report describes two types of ordnance found at the sites they visited. At one of the sites they found an ordnance which had markings in Cyrillic and the number 179. This fact was already producing buzz on the Internet with experts knowledgeable in Russian weapons pointing out that only the Syrian government could have possessed such weapons.
Analysis of Igor Sutyagin from the U.K. Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)
One such expert is Dr. Igor Sutyagin of the U.K. Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). It advertises itself as an independent think tank, but it is obvious from its website that it is pretty close to the British government. Dr. Sutyagin made a presentation on September 9 entitled “Assessing Chemical Weapons Use in Syria.”
He cuts an impressive figure with his Russian accent, and a wonkish style. He said that the UN inspectors had found an ordnance that could carry a chemical payload. After showing its similarity with the Russian M14 rocket and describing certain details, he homed in on the number “179”, which the UN report also highlighted as discussed later. He said it is a code for a plant in Novosibirsk, Russia that builds non-standard rockets. There are two points that are interesting in this context.
First, he gave credit to the blogger Brown Moses for having made accurate measurements on this rocket from the videos. It was a bit strange because Moses, a.k.a. Elliot Higgins, has reputedly no technical qualification and is based in the U.K. Why Sutyagin thought Moses could make such measurements is not obvious. Also which video was he referring to? Were they from the inspection team? The second point is that one can find very close resemblance between the photographs in the RUSI video presentation and those appearing in the UN report. In fact, there are red circles on the highlighted areas in both documents giving the impression that they are the same photographs.
The RUSI event was more than a week after the site visit of the UN inspectors, and a week before the publication of the UN report. Could it be possible that Dr. Sutyagin had access to the UN inspector’s photos and the Brown Moses reference was only a ruse to throw off the viewer? In return, perhaps he provided some tips to the inspectors about the no. “179” and certain other things, which made it into the report thus compromising its integrity. Whatever the motivation, the UN team should clarify how its information got out, as it seems it did.
Detailed Comparison of the UN and other Reports
Diagram in the UN Report (p/18) of the ordnance found in Ghouta
The UN report did not mention the ordnance’s similarity with the Russian M-14 munitions for obvious reasons, a point repeatedly stressed by Dr. Sutyagin in his presentation. However, it highlighted all other points he made about the non-standard characteristics of this particular rocket such as the circular nozzles as seen below in the relevant section of the UN report reproduced below.
The HRW report also made the same points about these munitions with strong hints about their Russian origin again citing unnamed independent sources, but again highlighting the same points made by Dr. Sutyagin. Coincidentally, Sutyagin said that “American sources” confirm his analysis hinting at a collaborative effort.
The second rocket that the inspectors found was the one that Richard Lloyd described in his study reported in the New York Times. Here, the report gives considerable importance to the measurement of bearings of the rocket ends and hints at the direction of their origin as “northwest” – a strong hint at the culpability of the Syrian military, whose base was in that direction. This despite scanty data from only two out of four sites, and its own expression of concern that “potential evidence was being moved and probably manipulated.” Whoever reads such fine print anyway?
50-60 Liter Warhead Design
However, the most significant point the UN report made was the confirmation in the report of Lloyd’s concept of a large annular-shaped warhead with crucial measurements that validated so to speak what was reported by the Times and then repeated by HRW and others. The strange coincidence is that the Times article, the Sutyagin analysis, and the HRW report all were published after the field measurements by the inspectors, but before the publication of the UN report.
Here are copies of drawings in the Times report (bottom) and the UN report. The similarities are striking.
Below Diagram in Lloyd report referenced in the New York Times.
Below is the diagram from the UN Report showing the dimensions of the warhead and photographs identifying various parts of the rocket and the warhead. Nearly same photographs also appear in the Lloyd report.
Here is one such snapshot from the Lloyd report:
Compare the above with the diagram below from the UN Report (p.21)
Below is a drawing reproduced from the HRW report. There is a lot of similarity among the HRW drawing, the one by Lloyd, and the UN Report above.
Finally, here is the drawing with detail dimensions of the rocket and the warhead from the New York Times article that credited MIT Professor Postol as the source.
Notice, the HRW report said that its dimensions were based on actual field measurements. So are those in the UN report. The Lloyd and Postol report provide just estimates gleaned supposedly from random You Tube videos. The table below is a comparison of the three reports .
A Comparison of warhead dimensions given by Lloyd, HRW, and UNSC Reports
How were they determined?
Payload Canister OD (cm)
Payload Canister ID (cm)
Payload Canister Length (cm)
|Human Rights Watch (HRW)||Actual measurement||
|UN Report||Actual measurement||
Striking Agreement between Estimated and Measured Values: too good to be true?
As is evident from the above comparison, there is stunning agreement between the measured and the estimated values for the most crucial dimensions of the warhead. Interestingly, there are some differences among the three reports when it comes to certain non-critical dimensions (not shown on the table) such as the length of the rocket motor. For example, Postol/Lloyd estimated the length of the rocket motor or engine as 125 cm whereas the corresponding HRW number is 155 cm and the UN figure is 134 cm.
In science or engineering, differences between estimated and measured values are routine. It would be more so in this case given the imprecise nature of the measuring tape. If any caliper or any other instrument were used, they were not visible in the video. So, the absence of any real difference makes them look suspect. The small difference between the UN data and the other two may be explained by a careful look at the drawings. The UN appears to have included the width of end flanges making their length 5 cm longer. Similarly, the UN measured the outer diameter of the canister, which includes the wall thickness. Hence, the difference in 1 cm for an estimated wall thickness of 5 mm or about 0.2 inch. It is also interesting how the other two studies estimated so accurately from video footage.
The real point is there are differences in measurements in certain non-critical dimensions (perhaps to show that they were independent), but near-exact agreement in others that matter. This dichotomy begs an obvious question. Could they have been manufactured to provide a scientific explanation to fit the casualty figure? Is it too good to be true? Alternatively, could there be one source for them, why are they almost identical? Then everybody could sing from the same hymn sheet, which appears to be the case.
Two types of munitions were found in Ghouta by the UN team. One was a rocket with 14 cm diameter. The second was a larger rocket with a 36 cm warhead. The UN report did not mention anything about a chemical payload for the smaller rocket. However, it estimated that the larger rocket was capable of delivering 50-60 liters of liquid payload.
It appears that the UN team provided photographs and physical measurements of the smaller rocket to Dr. Igor Sutyagin for analysis. His analysis was then incorporated in the UN report as its own. HRW also incorporated his analysis without crediting him.
It seems a similar process took place with the analysis of the larger rocket and its warhead. Here the outside analysts were Richard Lloyd and Theodore Postol. What was only a concept a few days ago, became the gospel after New York Times published the referenced article with enough scientific jargon and the obligatory mathematical equations and computer simulations to scare the lay reader from questioning the underlying assumptions. HRW did the same once again and claimed its analysis was independent, but the facts show otherwise.
Finally, there is no way to determine the truth behind the alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta in the middle of fierce fighting. As expected, there is no independent confirmation of the casualty figure. That has not stopped the U.S. and its allies from claiming that it was a crime against humanity. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has lent his voice to these claims and stopped just short of accusing the Syrian President for these crimes. But, his UN team is not free of blemish. In the past two decades, the UN has lost a lot of credibility around the world. It is time for some house cleaning. Needless to say, respected NGO’s like Human Rights Watch need to do the same if they are to be credible in the future.
To restore credibility of the UN process, all results of the UN team’s findings should be made public. During Syria’s chemical arsenal demilitarization it would be essential to verify the UN team’s comments about the munitions that are supposed to be part of inventory. The inspectors are going back to Syria. It behooves them to do so.
Chronology of Events
August 21 Alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta in the early hours of the morning reported
August 22 Brown Moses blog spot makes available You Tube videos of the attack. The video includes gruesome photographs of dead people, children, first aid workers. It also includes photographs of rocket parts and munitions.
August 27 The first UN inspectors travel to the sites of alleged attack, Videos of the UN inspectors collecting environmental samples and making measurements become available on “Brown-Moses” and other websites soon thereafter
August 29 UN inspectors make a second visit to the affected areas
August 30 U.S. Government publishes an Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013
August 30 Richard Lloyd of Tesla, Inc. makes a presentation on the rocket payload of Syrian warheads based on videos found on the internet (does not credit Brown-Moses blog although many are obviously from there), Makes the following key conclusions:
- Damage to the ground and rocket body inconsistent with large explosive payload
- Chemical payload requires a small explosive to disperse
- Rockets showed chemical filling ports.
- Dead animals nearby without visible injury indicates chemical attack
Sept. 3 Lloyd makes another presentation outlining his concept of the Syrian warhead, which he derived from the videos. He provides drawings of the rocket and the warhead with a fair amount of details, but significantly no dimensions.
Sept. 4 The New York Times publishes an article based on the Lloyd study. The article includes a drawing of the conceptual Syrian rocket and warhead, but this time with dimensions of various parts and the crucial warhead concept, which are then repeated elsewhere and described as independently developed. The drawing also includes an artist’s rendering of a rocket making a shallow penetration with the toxic chemical cloud above the rocket. The Times makes both Lloyd and Postol presentations available on the web.
Sept. 10 Human Rights Watch releases its report and shows a diagram of the rocket with exactly the same warhead dimensions as Postol/Lloyd, but claiming that theirs was developed from actual field measurements, not photographs, but copying the Lloyd concept in ditto. HRW did not reference the Lloyd study.
Sept. 16 UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon releases the UN inspectors’ interim report that confirms that sarin was used in a large-scale attack on August 21. The report also stated that it was clear surface-to-surface rockets were used to deliver the gas. It went further and confirmed the concept and dimensions of the warhead described by Lloyd and Postol without, however, referencing the published study just like HRW.
Subrata Ghoshroy is currently a Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS). His research includes global peace and security, nuclear disarmament, and energy security with particular reference to South Asia. He is a keen analyst of the U.S. defense budget and policy and the military-industrial complex. He spent many years as an engineer and later transitioned to the policy world. He worked as a professional staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Senior Defense Analyst at the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress earning the distinction of its first and so far its only whistle-blower. He also served as a Congressional Science Fellow and a Senior Associate at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
NABLUS — Jewish extremist settlers attacked olive groves in Deir Sharaf village west of Nablus northern West Bank on Friday night.
The settlers attacked Palestinian lands near Shavei Shomron settlement where they cut down trees and bulldozed Palestinian lands in the area, a PIC correspondent reported.
The lands’ owners were stunned Saturday morning at the site and bulk of the damages caused by the settlers’ violent attack against their agricultural lands.
Settler attacks usually witness a sharp escalation during the olive harvest season, and include the uprooting of Palestinian trees, in addition to attacks on residents, and international supporters, while picking their crops.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers burned Palestinian land planted with grapes near Kharsia settlement in al-Khalil southern West Bank.
Local sources told Quds Press that the Israeli settlers burned down a four-dunum piece of land planted with grapes owned by the Palestinian citizen Mousa Jaber.
The Palestinian farmers called on human rights institutions to intervene to put an end to the Israeli violations and attacks against them and their farms.
- Israelis torch Palestinian car, slash tires of five others (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers open fire toward shepherds south of Nablus (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Illegal Israeli settlers attack Palestinian villages in Nablus (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Bahrain general prosecutor says senior opposition and ex-MP, Khalil Marzooq, has been referred to court on charges of “inciting terrorist crimes.”
Abdulrahman al-Sayyed said in a statement on Saturday that Marzooq, a leading figure in the kingdom’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, would also face charges of “promoting acts that amount to terrorist crimes.”
Marzooq was arrested on September 17. He served as deputy speaker in Bahrain’s 40-member parliament before a walkout was staged in 2011 by 18 members of al-Wefaq in protest against the violent crackdown on anti-regime demonstrators.
The statement added that Marzooq was also accused of using his position in al-Wefaq to call for “crimes” that are regarded as “terror acts under the law.”
The prosecutor also confronted Marzooq for his public speeches in which he supported an opposition group known as the Coalition Youth of February 14 Revolution.
On September 18, al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s main opposition group, boycotted national reconciliation talks in protest against the detention of Marzooq.
Last Sunday, a court in the kingdom sentenced 50 Shias to up to 15 years in jail for forming the Coalition Youth of February 14 Revolution.
The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February 2011. Protesters initially called for political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.
Scores have been killed, many of them under torture while in custody, and thousands more detained since the popular uprising in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Questions have arisen after the German author Ilija Trojanow was denied entry to the United States, apparently without reason. A colleague of the writer claims his call for clarity about US spying activity is the answer.
The 48-year-old Trojanow had been invited to a German language convention in the US city of Denver. However, he was left stranded at Salvador da Bahia airport, in Brazil.
“The woman told me curtly and without emotion that entry to the United States was being denied to me – without giving any reason,” Trojanow told the German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday.
Trojanow and co-author Juli Zeh had been behind an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel that demanded the German government “tell the nation the full truth about the spying offensive.” The document was written in light of former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden’s revelations about far-reaching and unsupervised electronic spying operations by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The letter was signed by some 70,000 people and handed to Merkel ahead of Germany’s general election. It stated that there was a growing impression that Berlin had approved the methods of US and British authorities in spying on German citizens.
“For this reason we ask you, is it politically desirable that the NSA monitors German citizens in a way that the German authorities are forbidden from doing by the constitution and the German Constitutional Court?” the authors wrote.
German election campaigns have rarely been so spiritless – only the issue of data protection has been able to drive intellectuals to lift their pens in protest. Have polarizing debates become a thing of the past? (19.09.2013)
Zeh now claims there was a connection between Trojanow’s being denied entry to the US and his criticism of the spying operations of the NSA and other government agencies.
“It is more than ironic that an author who raises his voice against the dangers of surveillance and the secret state within a state over the years could be denied entry to the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave,’” Zeh wrote on her Facebook page.
“To look at it in a positive way – everything we are doing is having an effect; It is being brought to public attention,” Zeh observed. “To look at it negatively, it is a farce, pure paranoia. People who stand up for civil rights are being treated as enemies of the state.”
“It may only be an individual case, but it illustrates the consequences of a disastrous development and exposes the naïve attitude of many citizens who reassure themselves with the mantra that this does not affect them,” Zeh said.
A spokeswoman for Trojanow’s publisher said he was on the on way back to Germany on Tuesday, the news agency DPA reported.
Zeh and Trojanow co-authored a 2009 book in German: “Attack on Freedom: Security Paranoia, the Surveillance State and the Dismantling of Civil Rights.”
- *German-Bulgarian Writer Banned From US For Criticizing NSA (novinite.com)
- U.S. Reportedly Bars Entry To Leading Critic Of NSA Surveillance Programs (jonathanturley.org)
- United States Blocks German Author, Critical of NSA Surveillance, From Entering the Country (dissenter.firedoglake.com)
On the Saturday Sept. 28th, disgraced Gen. Odlanier Mena shot himself in the head in a stairwell outside his home in Santiago, Chile. Convicted in 2007 and sentenced to six years for ordering the murder of Oscar Codoceo, Manuel Donoso, and Julio Valenzuela in 1973, a media firestorm over the conditions of his military prison, replete with nutritionist and tennis court, had forced conservative Pres. Piñera to approve his transfer to general population. Rather than face prison life, Gen. Mena made a choice he never offered the thousands whose torture he oversaw as head of the CNI (Chile’s secret police), years of suffering or a painless death. He chose the latter.
Such a sensational story rightly found traction in media outlets across the Hemisphere, but most, like the New York Times, failed to mention Mena’s training at the School of the Americas (SOA), a U.S. Army training facility for Latin American soldiers, as well the broader involvement of the Nixon Administration in fomenting the 1973 coup. That Gen. Mena was able to commit suicide on weekend leave to his comfortable home while technically a prisoner of the state is indication enough of Chile’s agonizing struggle for justice; that mainstream media outlets across the Hemisphere failed to link Mena to the policies of Kissinger and Nixon– policies that continue to the present even as the SOA has been rebranded WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)– lays plain that Chilean generals are not the only ones who walk among us, blood on their hands, with impunity.
The New York Times, of course, is not the only publication to focus on the drama of Mena’s death without probing the accomplices who trained, funded, and protected him along the way. The Times, like others, stuck to descriptions of his death, limited the scope of his crimes, and devoted one of eight paragraphs to a sympathy plea from Mena’s lawyer while offering no voice to the family members of his countless thousands of victims. In order to understand this carnal mess, we must expand the timeline beyond that offered by the Times, which in their article begins in 1973, when Gen. Mena had recently transferred from the “Caravan of Death” unit of the Chilean Army to commander of the Rancagua Regiment in Arica Province. Without forgetting his eventual conviction for the murders of the civilians he ordered that year, it’s necessary to turn back the clock three years to 1970, when Mena attended a 9 month Command and General Staff Officer Course at Ft. Benning, GA, home of the School of the Americas. In doing so, the precise type of officers produced at the SOA will come into focus, and allow us a contemporary, domestic point of reference for both the 9/11/73 coup that bore Gen. Pinochet’s dictatorship and the implementation of “Operations Other Than War (OOTW)” that Mena became familiar with at Ft. Benning.
The SOA/WHINSEC has a long and gruesome history. Originally opened in the Panama Canal Zone in 1946, it relocated to Georgia in 1984 after the Panamanians finally achieved sovereignty over their Canal. Notorious graduates include Guatemalan Pres. Gen. Rios Montt (convicted this year, and subsequently released, of genocide), Argentine Pres. Gen. Roberto Viola (convicted in 1985 of murder, kidnapping, and torture) and Honduran Police Chief Juan Carlos “the Tiger” Bonilla (whose police force has murdered and repressed Hondurans so successfully since the 2009 coup that the U.S. State Department has rerouted military aide to his subordinates, an Orwellian maneuver necessitated by Congress’s disapproval of human rights abuses in Honduras). That is to say that the impact of SOA grads across the Hemisphere continues not only in the historical memories of Latin Americans and the nightmares of disgraced generals, but in the mundane standard operating procedures of lethal military bureaucracies from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego.
Chile alone has sent more than 5,200 soldiers to be trained at the SOA in counterinsurgency, sniper fire, and interrogation techniques. Gen. Mena, high enough in rank in 1970 to forgo those courses, instead enrolled in Command and General Staff Officer Course (O-3), reserved for majors and above. According to the 1996 U.S. Army Course Catalog from the SOA, the stated purpose of the course was to train Latin American officers to “be able to command battalions, brigades and equivalent-sized units in peace or war…” and “efficiently manage manpower, equipment, money and time.” Certainly, his U.S. Army instructors would have been pleased with how efficiently Mena ran the Center for National Intelligence from 1977-80, renamed, like the SOA, after its previous moniker, DINA, had become too toxic.
During a time when the Chilean state faced no credible external threats, of all the course objectives listed in the SOA catalog, it must have been the Operations Other Than War (OOTW) training that Gen. Mena drew upon most frequently. The seemingly vague description, “To develop awareness of U.S. OOTW doctrine and of specific Latin American problems in a (sic) OOTW environment,” tells all when we trace the trajectories of SOA stars like Mena to the craters where they are currently crashing and burning all across Latin America. Among the “specific Latin American problems” Mena developed an awareness of during his time at the SOA most surely was the ascendance of the political left, a process now more than a half century old that manifested itself in Chile by the election of the Popular Unity coalition’s Salvador Allende Gossens to the presidency on Sept. 4th, 1970, six months after Mena’s enrollment at Ft. Benning. We can only imagine what must have been discussed by Mena and his Chilean colleagues in the portion of their course devoted to the objective of “Officer Preparation”, designed to familiarize them “with basic organization and doctrinal concepts”, but the outcome was tattooed in red across Chile during the 17-year Pinochet dictatorship.
Beyond the glaring omission of Mena’s training at the SOA, the New York Times and other mainstream outlets also ignored the larger story of U.S. direct involvement in the ’73 coup and complicity in all that followed. That story has been told by truth seeking independent journalists many times (for a great account of the mainstream media’s whitewashing of Latin American state violence, see Keane Bhatt’s article from July 29). Suffice it to say that Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has for many years been unable to travel freely abroad for fear that foreign courts will hold him accountable for his crimes against humanity. While the Times tries to relegate Mena’s suicide to the realms of history and pulp, we must remember that crimes like Mena’s are ongoing, and that the SOA/WHINSEC continues to export anti-democratic human rights abusers around the Hemisphere. Who says we don’t produce anything here anymore?
New documents have shown that the US National Security Agency has targeted people using a popular service which protected the anonymity of Internet users.
Documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have revealed the US spy agency has targeted users of The Onion Router (Tor) which helped web users keep business secrets and conduct research anonymously.
According to the documents, the agency has been collecting identities and locations of millions of users of Tor.
Tor aims to help people “defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.”
However, the NSA has followed Tor’s users, while the software is primarily funded and promoted by the US State Department and the Department of Defense.
The agency has been using ad networks like Google’s and Tor’s own entry and exit nodes on the Internet in order to track the users.
In addition, the surveillance agency has been able to block access to the anonymous network, diverting Tor users to insecure channels.
The NSA has repeatedly uncloaked users through circumventing Tor’s protections, although it cannot directly access Tor’s anonymous network.
One of the documents showed that an NSA technique code-named EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE had managed to unmask 24 Tor users over a single weekend.
Court documents have shown that the NSA violated privacy rules for years with improper surveillance practices.
The documents released over the past few months show a troubling picture of the super spy agency that has sought and won far-reaching surveillance powers to run complex domestic data collection without anyone having full technical understanding of the efforts.
The privacy violations were first revealed by Snowden in June. He leaked confidential information that showed the NSA collects data of phone records and Internet communications of American citizens.
Jeebus, it’s like they’re doing everything possible so that you don’t make it under the wire to 65, isn’t it? Here’s the text of a 2010 letter on NJ letterhead (“MEDICAID COMMUNICATION NO. 10-08″):
The Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (DMAHS) is reinforcing and updating guidelines that were issued in Medicaid Communication No. 00-16, dated August 10, 2000, governing the recovery of correctly paid Medicaid benefits from the estates of deceased Medicaid clients or former Medicaid clients. The following is a list of important points to remember when determining eligibility and discussing this topic with applicants, clients, authorized representatives and families:
• Medicaid benefits received on or after age 55 are subject to estate recovery. This is specifically stated and acknowledged on the authorization page of the PA-1G Medicaid Application Form.
• DMAHS has an immediate right to recover from the estate unless there is a surviving spouse or child(ren) who is under age 21 or who is blind or permanently and totally disabled. Should any of these exceptions to DMAHS’ right to recover from an estate no longer apply (e.g., death of surviving spouse, attainment of age 21 by surviving child, or death or termination of disability of blind or permanently and totally disabled child), DMAHS has a right to recover from any remaining estate assets at that time.
• Estate recovery in New Jersey includes payments for ALL services, not merely services for institutionalized clients. There is no limitation on the type of service for which DMAHS can recover its payments from estates including managed care (HMO) capitation fees. However, effective January 1, 2010, Medicare cost-sharing benefits paid under the Medicare Savings Programs such as “Buy-in”, Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries (“SLMB”) or Qualified Individuals (“QI-1”) are not subject to estate recovery.
• The estates of deceased clients who were enrolled in various Title XIX Waiver Programs (such as ACCAP, GLOBAL Options, CCW, etc.) ARE subject to recovery. The only current exceptions are HCEP and JACC, which are State- funded programs through other State Departments.
• The client’s primary residence, while exempt for eligibility purposes, is considered part of the client’s estate, and therefore is subject to recovery. It is also important to reinforce with applicants, clients and families that any interest that the client had in any property at the time of death will be considered part of the decedent’s estate, and therefore subject to recovery.
• Annuities are required to be disclosed upon application and recertification for Medicaid. For those annuities which are determined not to be subject to asset liquidation, the State of New Jersey must be named as the remainder beneficiary in the first/primary position for the total amount of medical assistance paid on their behalf. In the case where there is a community spouse and/or a minor or disabled child, the State must be named in the second/secondary position as remainder beneficiary. The State or its eligibility agencies shall require verification of the State being irrevocably named as the remainder beneficiary in the correct position and the State needs to be notified of any contractual changes in the annuities’ income or principal. The remaining benefits of an annuity not subject to liquidation prior to eligibility determination are payable to the State (primary or secondary position) regardless of the age of provided services
• “Estate” for Medicaid recovery purposes is now defined by law to include any real or personal property and any assets in which the client had any legal title or interest at the time of death. Included for your reference is a copy of the pertinent regulation. Please note that the definition of “estate” appears at N.J.A.C. 10:49-14.1(e)2 and is quite comprehensive; also note that the term “other arrangements” used in that subsection includes testamentary trusts and annuities.
• Please remember that in the process of estate recovery, DMAHS will file a lien against the estate to recover all payments for services received on or after age 55 (except for annuities).
• No distribution can be made to heirs or creditors from the estate other than for reasonable funeral expenses, costs associated with the administration of the estate, debts owed to the Office of the Public Guardian for Elderly Adults, and claims with preference under federal or state law (e.g., IRS liens) that may be superior to Medicaid’s (e.g. filed prior in time) without first satisfying the Medicaid program’s lien.
And what’s so reprehensible about ObamaCare is that they force you into Medicaid. No options if that’s how the eligibility plays out; if you want to risk a piece-of-crap policy so you can pass on your house to your kids, you can’t do that. Yet another path to downward mobility! Of course, this only applies to the poorest, ObamaCare being ObamaCare.
NOTE Yet one more reason why single payer Medicare for All is the only fair solution.
Although this PDF is from NJ, it reads to me like they are passing along a Federal policy. Key words to research are “Medicaid estate recovery” +your favorite of the 50 states.
Aletho News recommends perusing the comment thread at the source for more information.
- What is Estate Recovery in the Medicaid realm? (atlantaattorneywhomakeshousecalls.wordpress.com)
- Medicaid Alert: Arkansas Medicaid Going Private? Others To Follow? Should NC? (medicaidlawnc.wordpress.com)
- ObamaCare’s Short Life Expectancy (americanthinker.com)
- Obamacare: A Deception
A recent investigative report on the NYPD’s surveillance of mosques has led to a possible revisiting of the Handschu Agreement by the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit filed against the city seeking to bar further surveillance of Muslims in New York City.
According to the 1985 ruling, the Handschu Agreement limited indiscriminate surveillance of purely political activity. If such surveillance was to take place, it first had to be approved by the three-member Handschu Authority and performed only by the specially-designated Public Security Section, a division of NYPD Intelligence. It also prohibited the videotaping or photographing of large public gatherings when there was no indication of criminal activity and forbade the sharing of information with outside agencies unless they agreed to be bound by the limitations of the Agreement.
This is what was assumed to be in place. When the plaintiffs filed in February, their attorney pointed out that the police activity that had been observed clearly violated those limitations.
The police measures directed at Muslims violate the Handschu decree “because they’re not rooted in the fact that there’s a criminal predicate,” said plaintiff attorney Paul Chevigny. “They’re rooted in the fact that the subjects are Muslims.”
It was exactly as it looked: Muslims being placed under surveillance simply because they attended certain mosques — mosques the NYPD had declared to be “terrorist organizations.”
The city has countered by claiming that it closely observes the Handschu guidelines when making decisions about how to fight terror. A city lawyer, Peter Farrell, told the judge on Tuesday that the department launches investigations based on evidence of legitimate threats, not on religion.
“It’s undeniable that New York City remains at the center of the threat by Islamists who have been radicalized to violence,” he said.
What the city lawyer’s conveniently left out was that the Handschu guidelines had been deliberately weakened by the NYPD, thanks to the efforts of a former CIA officer and his CIA liaison, who formed a so-called “Demographics Group” that was charged with monitoring activity by the city’s Muslims.
[T]he activities that [CIA liaison Larry] Sanchez and [former senior CIA officer David] Cohen were proposing would not have been permitted under the Handschu guidelines. So, on September 12, 2002, Cohen filed a 23-page document in federal court asking a judge to throw out the guidelines and give his officers more leeway.
Cohen insisted that the world had changed since Al Qaeda attacked America, and the NYPD needed to change with it. “These changes were not envisioned when the Handschu guidelines were agreed upon,” he wrote, “and their continuation dangerously limits the ability of the NYPD to protect the people it is sworn to serve.”
The severely watered-down Handschu guidelines were approved by Judge Charles Haight. The name remained unchanged and most New Yorkers were unaware that hardly any limitations remained tied to the Agreement.
After securing this expanded definition (which also thoroughly abused the word “related”), the Demographics Group proceeded to declare entire mosques as “terrorist organizations” and began constant surveillance of their members. And, contrary to what the city’s lawyer declared, it has yet to be proven by the NYPD or anyone else that New York is the “center of the threat by Islamists.” The NYPD has spent millions of dollars and thousands of manhours surveilling and investigating Muslims and has turned up exactly zero useful leads.
When the plaintiffs filed this case, they had no idea the Handschu guidelines had been so thoroughly eviscerated. Armed with this new knowledge, the plaintiffs have asked the city to turn over so-called “investigative statements” related to these surveillance operations. The city won’t even meet them halfway, offering only to turn over a “handful” for the plaintiffs’ lawyers to view without making them part of the public record.
Technically, the city is correct: the NYPD is following the guidelines, as they have been altered, not as they were originally written.
The presiding judge says he will rule at a later date. However, one key factor is problematic. The presiding judge is Charles Haight, the same judge who agreed to relax those rules for the NYPD back in 2002. When he says something like this, it’s hard to know how to take it.
“I’ve come to think of this case as a volcano that’s asleep most of the time … but every now and then blows up,” U.S. District Judge Charles Haight said at the start of a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.
This “volcano” is at least partially of his own making. Haight knows how few restrictions remain under those guidelines. The NYPD can “closely observe” the relaxed Handschu guidelines and still place entire mosques under surveillance. The protections remaining are so weak and the scope of what is deemed “terrorist-related” so broad that even the CIA itself is unable to use the information collected by the Demographics Unit because doing so means violating CIA policies regarding domestic surveillance.
But it appears (although details are incredibly light) that Haight may revisit his own decision relaxing those guidelines. His upcoming ruling will determine whether the near-useless offer the city’s lawyer made will be sufficient or if the city will need to cough up what’s been requested: investigative statements related to “any operation targeting Muslims.” Haight will also make the call as to whether the documents will remain “off the record.”
The NYPD has never been very responsive when asked to turn over information, but considering this order may come from a federal judge, rather than a member of the public, the response time might be a little quicker. As for the plaintiffs, it would seem they drew possibly the least sympathetic judge to hear this case. But who knows, maybe Haight’s had a change of heart over the years. Many rash legislative and legal decisions were made shortly after the 9/11 attacks and there have been more than a few who have expressed regret for their decisions or dismay at the continual expansion of already-broad policies. Haight might be one of the ones who regrets his decision. Fortunately, he’s still in a position to make some changes.
Belgium has demanded explanations from the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) over allegations that it infiltrated major Belgian national telecom provider Belgacom.
The allegations against GCHQ were made after documents, leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, pointed to the British agency’s spying activities against Belgium.
According to reports in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the Cheltenham-based intelligence agency has been accused of hacking the IT system of Belgacom by placing a virus in its network.
“Following the article in Der Spiegel, the government asked Belgian intelligence services to ask their British colleagues for more information,” said a source close to the Belgian government.
Prosecutors in Brussels are now investigating the case against the British spy agency.
A GCHQ spokeswoman declined to comment on the revelation.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament is also examining the activities of the GCHQ. European courts have launched a legal challenge against the agency’s surveillance programs over violating the privacy of millions of people throughout Britain and Europe.
However, London claims the EU does not have the authority to investigate these charges in European courts.
Snowden is currently in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.
- Belgium seeks answers from Britain over telecom spying (dnaindia.com)
- UK intelligence spying on Belgium – Snowden leaks (voiceofrussia.com)
- GCHQ: EU surveillance hearing is told of huge cyber-attack on Belgian firm (theguardian.com)
- Privacy advocates vs. GCHQ: Groups launch EU court case against spy agency (RT)
Okay, they don’t do so in as many words. But in addition to being more confident than ever (despite a 16-year pause in warming and the growing mismatch between model projections and observations) that man-made climate change is real, they are also more confident nothing really bad is going to happen during the 21st Century.
The scariest parts of the “planetary emergency” narrative popularized by Al Gore and other pundits are Atlantic Ocean circulation shutdown (implausibly plunging Europe into a mini-ice age), ice sheet disintegration raising sea levels 20 feet, and runaway warming from melting frozen methane deposits.
As BishopHill and Judith Curry report on their separate blogs, IPCC now believes that in the 21st Century, Atlantic Ocean circulation collapse is “very unlikely,” ice sheet collapse is “exceptionally unlikely,” and catastrophic release of methane hydrates from melting permafrost is “very unlikely.” You can read it for yourself in Chapter 12 Table 12.4 of the IPCC’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report.
But these doomsday scenarios have always been way more fiction than science. For some time now, extreme weather has been the only card left in the climate alarm deck. Climate activists repeatedly assert that severe droughts, floods, and storms (Hurricane Sandy is their current poster child) are now the “new normal,” and they blame fossil fuels.
- “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”
- “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”
- “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems.”
- “Based on updated studies, AR4 [the IPCC 2007 report] conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated.”
- “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extra-tropical cyclones since 1900 is low.”
Pielke Jr. concludes:
“There is really not much more to be said here — the data says what it says, and what it says is so unavoidably obvious that the IPCC has recognized it in its consensus. Of course, I have no doubts that claims will still be made associating floods, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes with human-caused climate change — Zombie science — but I am declaring victory in this debate. Climate campaigners would do their movement a favor by getting themselves on the right side of the evidence.”
For further discussion, see my post “Global Warming: Planet’s Most Hyped Problem” on this week’s National Journal Energy Insiders blog.
- IPCC SPM: Bye to Extreme Weather
- What would the IPCC have written if there had been 12 years of rapid warming?