David Albright of ISIS (AKA the “Institute for Scary Iran Stories“) has never seen an alarmist allegation about Iran that he did not amplify in another somber “Iran is weeks (days, minutes, seconds) away from a nuclear weapon and must be stopped NOW” report.
Four and a half years ago, Albright’s over-active imagination led him to somberly assert that:
Iran continues to move forward on developing its nuclear capabilities, and it is close to having what we would call a ‘nuclear breakout capability.’ That’s a problem because once Iran reaches that state then it could make a decision to get nuclear weapons pretty rapidly. In as quickly as a few months, Iran would be able to have enough weapons-grade uranium for nuclear weapons.
Nothing came of his assertions.
In December, 2009, an “alarming secret document” emerged that purported to show Iran’s secret nuclear goals. Again David Albright was trotted out to opine that the document was a smoking gun:
The only realistic use of this is in a nuclear weapon. It shows that either Iran is developing the capability [to build nuclear weapons] or it is moving to implement a bomb program — and either one is bad.
Nothing came of his assertions.
In early 2010 Albright gave an interview with CFR’s Bernard Gwertzman in which he claimed that Iran was…six months away from a nuclear weapon!
In October, 2012 Albright asserted that Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb in just two to four months!
Albright was not always so obsessed with Iran. He used to be in charge of spreading “Scary Iraq Stories” before the US invasion in 2003. For example, on Sept. 10, 2002, he wrote in “Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?” that:
“High-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq’s al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility (Unit-340), located in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border. This site was where Iraq extracted uranium for its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. …
[Without inspections] he international community cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq is secretly producing a stockpile of uranium in violation of its commitments under Security Council resolutions. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.”
But now David Albright is back!
In a article in the October 24th issue of USA Today, Albright is more alarmist than ever! He now opines that Iran may be one month away from a nuclear bomb! Half of Iran’s centrifuges must be destroyed to even give us a six-month lead time until the Iranian bomb, asserts “expert” Albright.
Worse even, Albright yesterday asserted in the USA Today article that:
if Iran decided to build a covert enrichment plant like it has under a mountain in Fordow, near the city of Qom, that was designed for optimal efficiency and minimal time to enrich enough uranium for bomb making. Such a facility built with current Iranian technology could produce enough material for a bomb in a week, according to the ISIS report.”If they did that and they were caught it would be a smoking gun of a nuclear weapons program,” Albright said.
On no! Only a week! We should believe him this time. Never mind that he has never been right! He is an expert! Bombs away!
Many issues of national importance to Japan, probably including the state of the Fukushima power plant, may be designated state secrets under a new draft law. Once signed, it could see whistleblowers jailed for up to 10 years.
Japan has relatively lenient penalties for exposing state secrets compared to many other nations, but that may change with the introduction of the new law. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has agreed on draft legislation on the issue on Friday and expects the parliament to vote on it during the current session, which ends on December 6.
With a comfortable majority in both chambers, the ruling coalition bloc would see no problems overcoming the opposition. Critics say the new law would give the executive too much power to conceal information from the public and compromise the freedom of the press.
Currently only issues of defense can be designated state secrets in Japan, and non-military leakers face a jail term of up to one year. Defense officials may be sentenced to five years for exposing secrets, or 10 years, if the classified information they leaked came from the US military.
The new law would enact harsher punishment to leakers, but more importantly, it would allow government branches other than defense ministry to designate information as state secrets. The bill names four categories of ‘special secrets’, which would be covered by protection – defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage.
Under the new legislation a ministry may classify information for a five-year term with a possibility of prolongation to up to 30 years. After that a cabinet ruling would be needed for the secret to be treated as such, but there is no limit for how long information may be kept under a lid.
“Basically, this bill raises the possibility that the kind of information about which the public should be informed is kept secret eternally,” Tadaaki Muto, a lawyer and member of a task force on the bill at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, told Reuters.
“Under the bill, the administrative branch can set the range of information that is kept secret at its own discretion.”
Media watchdogs in Japan fear the bill would allow the government to cover up serious blunders, like the collusion between regulators and utilities, which was a significant factor in the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The quake- and tsunami-hit nuclear power plant went into meltdown and continues to leak contaminated water as its operator TEPCO failed to contain it.
TEPCO has long been accused of obscuring the crisis and Fukushima. Many details on its development were first published in the media before going to governmental or corporate reports.
Critics of the state secrets bill say it would undermine media’s ability to act as the public’s eye on the actions of the government and whoever it would choose to shield.
“It seems very clear that the law would have a chilling effect on journalism in Japan,” said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University.
In a bid to address those concerns the cabinet added a provision to the draft which gives “utmost considerations” to citizens’ right to know and freedom of the press. The addition came at the request of the New Komeito party, the coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. The added provisions also state that news reporting is legitimate if its purpose is to serve the public good and the information is not obtained in unlawful or extremely unjust ways.
The clause is based on the 1970s scandal in Japan, in which a reporter was charged and found guilty of unlawfully obtaining secret information about the government. The reporter, Takichi Nishiyama, revealed a secret US-Japanese pact under which Tokyo paid some $4 million of the cost of transferring Okinawa Island from the US back to Japanese rule in 1972.
Nishiyama’s report, which was revealed to have been truthful in 2000, was based on documents he received from a married Foreign Ministry clerk with whom he had an affair. The scandal ultimately ruined his career and dealt a serious blow to the newspaper he worked for.
Japanese law has no clear definition of what kind of new gathering could be deemed ‘grossly inappropriate’. The bill introduces a jail sentence of up to five years for non-officials, including media professionals, using such methods to obtain information. But it does not clearly state that if a journalist reporting on a state secret is found to have obtained the information legitimately, he or she would not be punished. This has led critics to dismiss the ‘freedom of press’ provisions as political window dressing.
Despite criticisms, the Japanese cabinet insists that the law be adopted promptly. It is needed for the planned establishment of a national security council, which would involve members from different ministries and agencies. The law would protect information exchanged through the new body from being leaked, the government says.
Abe’s party has sought unsuccessfully to enact a harsher law on state secrets in the past. The effort had been given a boost after a leaking of a video in 2010, which showed a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese patrol vessel near disputed isles in the East China Sea. The government led by the now-opposition Democratic Party wanted to keep the video under wraps, fearing that its publication would harm the already tense relations with Beijing.
Japan had harsh state secret legislation before and during World War II, so in the post-war period government secrecy has been viewed with suspicion, along with militaristic traditions and other things associated with the Imperial past. Abe’s LDP is among the political circles in Japan, which seek change to some of those policies.
- Cabinet to OK state secrets bill (japantimes.co.jp)
- State secrets act feared to have ‘chilling effect on journalism’ in Japan (japandailypress.com)
Ed Snowden has briefly stepped up to the mic to rebut Dianne Feinstein’s claims that the NSA’s bulk phone records collections are “not surveillance.” While he didn’t specifically name Feinstein, it’s pretty clear who his comments are directed towards, what with the senator putting in overtime over the past few weeks defending the agency’s cherished but useless Section 215 collections haystacks that are definitely not collections (according to the Intelligence Dictionary.)
“Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands,” Snowden said in a statement Thursday.
“Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.”
Her op-ed for the USA Today stated the following:
The call-records program is not surveillance.
Why is it not surveillance? Feinstein claimed, in direct contradiction to someone who’s seen most of the inner workings of the agency’s programs, that because it doesn’t sweep up communications or names, it isn’t surveillance. Also, she pointed out that surveillance or not, it’s legal. So there.
Maybe Feinstein considers the term “surveillance” to mean something closer to the old school interpretation — shadowy figures in unmarked vans wearing headphones and peering through binoculars.
Of course, this kind of surveillance contained many elements completely eliminated by the combination of the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and a very charitable reading of the Third Party Doctrine. You know, the sort of stuff those shadowy men used to utilize: warrants, targeted investigations, reasonable suspicion, a grudging working relationship with the Fourth Amendment…
That’s all gone now. The courts have declared that sweeping up business records on millions of Americans is no more a violation of the Fourth Amendment than gathering metadata on a single person. The NSA has warped the definition of “surveillance” just as surely as they’ve warped the definition of “relevant.” The wholesale, untargeted gathering of millions of “transactions” from internet and phone activity doesn’t seem to resemble what anyone might historically think of as “surveillance,” but it’s surveillance nonetheless.
Sure, the NSA may not look at everything it gathers, but it has the capability to do so and it shows no interest in letting any of its dragnets be taken out of commission. The NSA’s defenders downplay the agency’s many intrusions by first playing the “legal” and “oversight” cards and, when those fail to impress, belittle their critics by trotting out condescending statements like, “The NSA isn’t interested in Grandma’s birthday phone call or the cat videos you email to your friends.”
Well, no shit. We’re hardly interested in that, either. We’re not worried about the NSA looking through tons of inane interactions. We know it doesn’t have the time or inclination to do so. We’re more concerned it’s looking at the stuff it finds interesting and amassing databases full of “suspicious” persons by relying on algorithms and keywords — a fallible process that robs everything of context and turns slightly pointed hay into the needles it so desperately needs to justify its existence.
What makes this even more frightening is that the agency then hands this unfiltered, untargeted, massive collection of data off to other agencies, not only in the US but in other countries, subjecting innocent Americans’ data to new algorithms, keywords and mentalities, increasing the possibility of false positives.
But what we’re mainly concerned about is the fact that an agency that claims its doing this to combat terrorism can’t seem to come up with much evidence that its programs are working. The NSA has deprived us of civil liberties while delivering next to nothing in terms of security. Americans have been sold out to a data-hungry beast, and even if it’s not officially “surveillance,” it’s still completely unacceptable.
The post-9/11 era of government spying has resulted in intelligence agencies storing information on law-abiding Americans for up to 75 years, according to a new study (pdf) by the Brennan Center for Justice.
In what’s been described as the first report of its kind regarding U.S. intelligence gathering, the Brennan Center examined the many ways that the federal government collects, shares, and stores data on average Americans.
The comprehensive look at five intelligence agencies uncovered this critical finding: that non-terrorism-related data can be kept for up to 75 years or more. This disturbing practice can result in overloaded national security databases and opportunities for abuse by government officials, the center said.
The investigation found “that in many cases, information carrying no apparent investigative value is treated no differently from information that does give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminal or terrorist activity. Basically, the chaff is treated the same as the wheat,” the report states.
The Brennan Center urged the government to implement multiple reforms, including:
- Ensuring that policies governing the sharing and retention of information about Americans are accessible and transparent.
- Prohibiting the retention and sharing of domestically-gathered data about Americans for law enforcement or intelligence purposes in the absence of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
- Reforming the Privacy Act of 1974, which the center claims has fallen short of its goal of protecting the privacy of Americans’ personal information.
- Increasing public oversight over the National Counterterrorism Center, which the Brennan Center describes as “a massive federal data repository that increasingly is engaged in large-scale aggregation, retention, and analysis of non-terrorism information about Americans.”
- Requiring regular audits of federal agencies’ retention and sharing of non-criminal information about Americans.
To Learn More:
What the Government Does with Americans’ Data (Overview, by Rachel Levinson-Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice)
What the Government Does with Americans’ Data (by Rachel Levinson-Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice) (pdf)
CIA Strategy: Collect All Data and Keep it Forever (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Obama and Holder Remove Restrictions on Gathering and Keeping Data about All Americans (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
As the new round of nuclear diplomacy between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 unfolds, an informal coalition of forces is coalescing in the West to oppose any prospective deal in which the United States would “accept” safeguarded uranium enrichment in Iran. Of course, Israel and the pro-Israel lobby are at the heart of this coalition. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s remarks about the Iran nuclear talks on NBC’s Meet the Press this past Sunday, see here, are emblematic of the “zero enrichment” camp:
“The question is not of hope; the question is of actual result. The test is the result. The result has to be the full dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear program. If that is achieved, that would be very good. If it’s achieved peacefully, it’s even better…I think the pressure has to be maintained on Iran, even increased on Iran, until it actually stops the nuclear program—that is, dismantles it. I think that any partial deal could end up in dissolving the sanctions. There are a lot of countries waiting for a signal, just waiting for a signal, to get rid of their sanctions regime. And I think that you don’t want to go through halfway measures…
As far as the freezing of assets—as far as I remember, those assets were frozen for three reasons: one, Iran’s terrorist actions; two, its aggressive actions, particularly in the Gulf; and three, its continued refusal to stop the production of weapons of mass destruction. You know, if you get all three done, and they stop doing it—well, then, I suppose you could unfreeze them…Those sanctions weren’t Israeli sanctions. I’ve always advocated them, but the international community adopted very firm resolutions by the Security Council, and here’s what those resolutions say: they said Iran should basically dismantle its centrifuges for enrichment (that’s one path to get a nuclear weapon) and stop work on its plutonium heavy-water reactor (that’s the other path for a nuclear weapon).
It’s very important to stress that it’s for nuclear weapons. Nobody challenges Iran’s or any country’s pursuit of civilian nuclear energy. But seventeen countries in the world, including your neighbors Canada and Mexico, have very robust programs for civilian nuclear energy, and they don’t enrich with centrifuges, and they don’t have heavy water plutonium reactors.
Here comes Iran and says, ‘I want civilian nuclear energy.’ I don’t know why, because they have energy, with gas and oil, coming out of their ears for generations. But suppose you believe them. Then you ask, ‘Why do you insist on maintaining a plutonium heavy water reactor, and on maintaining centrifuges that can only be used for making nuclear weapons?’ And the answer is because they want to have residual capability to make nuclear weapons. And you don’t want that, and UN resolutions don’t want that, Security Council resolutions. And I propose sticking by that.”
Anyone who has been following the Iranian nuclear issue with any measure of objectivity will note that Netanyahu mixes up U.S. secondary sanctions with sanctions authorized by the United Nations Security Council; likewise, he misrepresents what the relevant Security Council resolutions actually say about Iran’s nuclear activities, and misstates basic facts about fuel-cycle technology. Never mind all that. Notwithstanding his myriad factual errors, Netanyahu gives authoritative voice to the main rhetorical tropes of the “zero enrichment” camp:
–Iran has to dismantle its current infrastructure for uranium enrichment, and stop work on the heavy-water reactor currently under construction at Arak.
–Moreover, even if Iran does these things, this is not enough to warrant a lifting of sanctions. The Islamic Republic must also terminate its relations with democratically validated resistance/religious/social service/political movements like Hizballah in Lebanon, and stop suggesting that disenfranchised Shi’a populations in countries like Bahrain actually have political rights.
In the wake of Netanyahu’s Meet the Press appearance, we were struck by the similarity between his positions and those espoused in an Op Ed, titled “The World Must Tell Iran: No More Half Steps,” published earlier this week in the Washington Post, see here:
“Despite its softened rhetoric, the new Iranian regime can be expected to continue asserting its nuclear ‘rights’ and to press its advantages in a contested Middle East. The Islamic Republic plans to remain an important backer of the Assad dynasty in Syria, a benefactor of Hezbollah and a supporter of Palestinian rejectionist groups. It will persist in its repressive tactics at home and continue to deny the people of Iran fundamental human rights. This is a government that will seek to negotiate a settlement of the nuclear issue by testing the limits of the great powers’ prohibitions.
Washington need not accede to such Iranian conceptions. The United States and its allies are entering this week’s negotiations in a strong position. Iran’s economy is withering under the combined pressures of sanctions and its own managerial incompetence. The Iranian populace remains disaffected as the bonds between state and society have been largely severed since the Green Revolution of 2009. The European Union is still highly skeptical of Iran, a distrust that Rouhani’s charm offensive has mitigated but not eliminated. Allied diplomats can use as leverage in the forthcoming negotiations the threat of additional sanctions and Israeli military force.
Given the stark realities, it is time for the great powers to have a maximalist approach to diplomacy with Iran. It is too late for more Iranian half-steps and half-measures. Tehran must account for all its illicit nuclear activities and be compelled to make irreversible concessions that permanently degrade its ability to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program at a more convenient time. Anything less would be a lost opportunity.”
Who is the author of this Op Ed? An AIPAC spokesperson? One of the many neocon firebrands to whom the Washington Post long ago turned over its Op Ed page?
No and no. The author of the remarkably Netanyahu-like Op Ed cited above is: Ray Takeyh, the mainstream media’s long-time “go to” (if also perennially mistaken) Iran “expert” who advised Dennis Ross’s destructively incompetent handling of the Iran nuclear file during President Obama’s first term and is now back at the Council on Foreign Relations.
We have no reason to believe that Ray is coordinating his public positions with the Israeli government. But it is remarkable how congruent his views are with those of the most hegemonically-minded Israeli prime minister in living memory.
PYONGYANG — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Wednesday it would not unilaterally dismantle its nuclear deterrence unless outside nuclear threats were removed, the official KCNA news agency reported.
“As action for action remains a basic principle for finding a solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, the DPRK will not unilaterally move first,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
The denuclearization of the peninsula did not mean unilateral nuclear disarmament by the DPRK but a process of realizing a whole nuclear-free peninsula by removing substantial outside nuclear threats on the principle of simultaneous actions, the statement said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said early this month Washington would be open to dialogue if Pyongyang started denuclearization first.
The National Defense Commission on Oct. 12 dismissed the U.S. request as “an intolerable mockery and insult to the army and people of the DPRK.”
The statement criticized Washington for shifting responsibility to Pyongyang and urged Washington to abandon its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Wednesday that Beijing had been “in close communication with all relevant parties of the six-party talks.”
China’s chief delegate to the six-party talks, Wu Dawei, and his Russian counterpart, Igor Morgulov, met in Beijing Monday and exchanged views on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the resumption of the six-party talks, the ministry said in a brief statement.
The UK government is mulling over changing the course on whether it should win parliament’s consent before engaging in acts of war, media reports said.
A convention was created as per former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision in 2003 to seek MPs’ approval before joining the US-led invasion of Iraq in March that year, according to which the parliament was given the right to vote over the use of force.
Now, the government is indicating that it will renege on its pledge to do the same as far as the parliament’s consent and the convention are concerned, British media reported.
Although the prime minister of Britain enjoys the power to engage in wars and he or she is not legally-bound to have the parliament’s consent, Prime Minister David Cameron was dealt a serious blow earlier this year, when as per the convention he was forced to have MPs’ endorsement in his desperate attempt to invade Syria militarily, but he failed to win the endorsement.
Again, in March 2011, when the question of Libya invasion was put to MPs, foreign secretary William Hague boasted that the government wanted to change this ancient power.
“We will also enshrine in law for the future necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”, he told the House of Commons.
However, Lib Dem Cabinet Office minister Lord Wallace of Saltaire poured cold water on the whole idea today, when he told the Commons constitution committee that the government was about to abandon its pledge.
He talked of an increasing nervousness among ministers, who believed if the convention becomes law then the government’s future decisions to launch war would create court challenges over whether those decisions were legal or not.
“Whether we should legislate on it is a large question,” said Lord Wallace.
“Legislation and judicial review go together and the government has become much more sensitive about judicial review of military action”, he added.
Lord Wallace said while the government was happy to obey the convention that parliament be asked for its consent, it was “very hesitant” about going any further.
“Once one gets the legal dimension into it, it might be entering an area of morass rather than of certainty,” he said.
“The government has an evolving position on this,” he revealed. “It is a great deal more complex than one thought, the definition of armed conflict and deployment of armed forces has all sorts of ragged edges.”
This comes as the parliament’s consent in launching wars has its own critics and advocates.
Critics say getting parliament’s consent would cause delays in deployment when a rapid action is needed. But, advocates believe prime minister enjoys too much power as far as the issue of launching wars is concerned and that decisions about war and peace should be made by parliament.