A journalist was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison by a Saudi criminal court for “disobeying the ruler” and claiming in televised remarks that the Saudi kingdom incites terrorism, state media reported.
Local media identified the convicted as Wajdi Al-Ghazzawi, who was also accused of contacting an unnamed “enemy of Saudi Arabia at the time (2009) and receiving a suspicious sum of money from it,” according to SPA news agency.
Reports suggested that Ghazzawi was accused of taking money from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2009, a time of tension between Tripoli and Riyadh.
Ghazzawi, the court in Riyadh said, was guilty of “disobeying the ruler on a television programme, inciting sedition… discrediting the kingdom and claiming that terrorism and Al-Qaeda were created by Saudi Arabia.”
He was also charged with spreading excerpts of the televised remarks on the internet and of accusing the Saudis “of insulting residents and denying them their rights,” SPA reported.
The court also instituted a 20-year travel ban on Ghazzawi, in addition to barring him from appearing in any media.
Gaddafi, a long-time foe of Saudi Arabia during his four-decade rule in Libya, was killed by rebels in 2011 following the NATO-led ouster of his regime. In 2004, US and Saudi news outlets accused Gaddafi of allegedly plotting to assassinate Saudi King Abdullah, who was crown prince at the time, AFP pointed out.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia passed a broad law that deems those that “disturb the public order” as terrorists.
It defines terrorism as “any act carried out by an offender… intended to disturb the public order… to shake the security of society…stability of the state… expose its national unity to danger… suspend the basic law of governance or some of its articles,” according to its text, as cited by Human Rights Watch.
Terrorists can also be considered those individuals who “insult the reputation of the state or its position… inflict damage upon one of its public utilities or its natural resources,” or those who attempt to force “governmental authority to carry out or prevent it from carrying out an action, or to threaten to carry out acts that lead to the named purposes or incite [these acts].”
The legislation, made up of 40 clauses, allows security forces to arrest and detain suspects for up to six months with the possibility to extend the confinement for another six months. Suspects are allowed to be held incommunicado for 90 days without the presence of their lawyer during the initial questioning.
Washington knew Syrian rebels could produce sarin gas but “cherry-picked” intel to blame President Assad for the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, citing senior US security sources.
The report was published in the London Review of Books after two of Hersh’s regular publishers, The New Yorker and The Washington Post, turned the article down.
Hersh, whose Pulitzers were for his exposes on American military misconduct in the Iraq and Vietnam wars, got his information on Syria from whistle-blowing acting and former intelligence and military officers, who for security reasons were not identified in the report.
According to Hersh’s findings, months before the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus, which almost prompted US air strikes on Syria, “the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports… citing evidence that the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”
The attack took place on August 21, the same day UN inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate allegations of use of chemical weapons. The casualty figures have ranged from several hundred to more than 1,400 deaths.
Before the attack, the Obama administration repeatedly described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line,” which would signal the US could intervene in the conflict.
Hersh wrote that he does not believe that the intelligence data, pointing at the rebels’ having capability for making sarin, could have in any way escaped the White House’s attention.
“Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on Al-Nusra and its work with sarin,” he wrote.
Obama’s laying the blame for the nerve gas attack on Assad’s forces, completely disregarding Al-Nusra as a suspect in the case, is thus described in the report as the administration’s having “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”
“The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war,” Hersh wrote.
It’s because of the lack of sufficient evidence against Assad that Obama quickly abandoned his plan for military strikes.
“Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal,” the report reads. “Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)”
The investigative journalist then points at an annual budget for all national intelligence programs, leaked to the media by Edward Snowden and partly published by The Washington Post. According to the document, by the time of the Eastern Ghouta chemical attack, the NSA “no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack”. That puts to question the confidence with which Obama spoke of Assad’s responsibility for the deaths.
The same document described “a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal”. Hersh wrote it was suspicious that the US intelligence received no alarm, if the Assad forces really prepared for an attack.
Hersh also analyses the news coverage of the chemical gas attack investigation, pointing to instances when the media outlets omitted the information that suggested there could be other suspects, beside Assad.
The UN September 16 report, confirming the use of sarin, contained one part that noted that the organization’s experts did not have immediate access to the attack sites controlled by rebels, so potential evidence could have been manipulated there. The passage was largely ignored in the news.
Following the release of the report, the spokesman for Director of National Intelligence, Shawn Turner, denied the report’s major point – that the US knew of the rebel group being capable of creating sarin.
“We were clear with The Washington Post and Mr. Hersh that the intelligence gathered about the 21 August chemical weapons attack indicated that the Assad regime and only the Assad regime could have been responsible,” Turner told Buzzfeed. “Any suggestion that there was an effort to suppress intelligence about a nonexistent alternative explanation is simply false.”
Hersh has remained unconvinced by the denial and has summed it up with a warning against ignoring alleged Al-Nusra’s chemical weapons potential.
“While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, Al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.”
Australian citizen David Hicks suffered torture and brutal beatings at the hands of guards at Guantanamo prison. Breaking the gag order that was a condition of his release, Hicks spoke to RT about his ordeal and how he was coerced into pleading guilty.
38-year-old David Hicks spent over five years in Guantanamo Prison accused of aiding terrorists. He was eventually convicted under the 2006 Military Commissions Act for “providing material support to terrorism” and released in 2007 after pleading guilty. Hicks has filed to have the convictions overturned, alleging his plea was made under duress and he had no other choice but to confess.
During his six years at Guantanamo, Hicks says he was subjected to both mental and psychological torture, forced to take injections and brought to the brink of suicide by the prison staff.
“Myself and everyone else were tortured on a daily basis,” Hicks said. “That ranges from typical physical beatings to a whole range of psychological ploys. There was medical experimentation that was very scary to be subjected to.”
The staff at Guantanamo forced inmates to take pills and injections, and they would face beatings if they resisted, Hicks said. The prisoners were never informed as to the nature of the drugs they were made to take.
Hicks said that being white and Australian gave him a privileged position in the prison, allowing him to avoid some of the physical abuse that went on.
“Being white and, more importantly, English being my first language, that allowed me to communicate with the guards and probably talk my way out of being beaten and tortured more – this is the guards, so it’s separate to interrogation – versus some of the Arabs and Afghans, who couldn’t speak English at all.”
He described the guards as having “no patience” and when they were frustrated they would beat the inmates until their “bones were broken.”
“Once the detainee was beaten and removed, they’d have to use hoses and scrubbing brushes to remove the blood from the cement floor,” Hicks said.
After almost five years of imprisonment in Guantanamo, Hicks said he had lost the ability “to fight, to have hope, to believe that justice would prevail” and was contemplating suicide.
“Guantanamo is sort of this black hole where supposedly no laws apply except what they decide.”
Setting the record straight
When he was finally offered the chance to leave the prison it came with a price. Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent a message to Hicks’ lawyer, saying that “under no circumstances” would the Australian government allow him to return without entering into some sort of plea.
Hicks was subsequently given the opportunity to sign an Alford Plea – a piece of US legislation that allows a defendant to plead guilty, but without admitting guilt to a particular crime. Upon agreeing to the plea, Hicks was told he would be freed in 60 days.
“I ended up taking that deal, knowing that I could get out in 60 days and back to Australia and deal with it,” said Hicks, who still maintains his innocence.
When he returned to Australia he was put into isolation in an Adelaide prison and had a gagging order placed on him, forbidding him from talk about his experience in Guantanamo.
Six years on, however, Hicks is moving to set the record straight and clear his name of the charges that he claims are legally invalid.
Hicks referred to the case of Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni national also charged with providing material support to terrorists who had the charges overturned after an appeal in a federal court. The court ruled in his favor on the basis that the 2006 Military Commissions Act, under which the charges were made, was flawed and unconstitutional.
“Material support for terrorism is not a recognized crime and if it was, it was applied retroactively anyway,” said Hicks, describing his appeal as a “formality.”
The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan captured David Hicks in 2001 and handed him over to American jurisdiction for a $1,000 bounty. Hicks, a convert to Islam, admitted that he had trained in an al-Qaeda paramilitary camp during his time in Afghanistan, but maintains he never participated in terrorist activities.
Department Of Homeland Security Funded Study Proves War On Terrorism Has Greatly Increased Global Terrorism
A new study from the Department of Homeland Security has proven what has been a well-known fact amongst anyone who follows the alternative media. The so-called war on terrorism has actually increased terrorism around the world. Whenever the United States government announces that they are launching a war on something we get more of what they are waging a war on.The war on poverty resulted in more poverty, the war on drugs resulted in more drug use and now we can definitively say the same thing about the war on terrorism. If the goal of the so-called war on terrorism was to reduce the amount of terrorism in the world it has failed miserably. Anyone with any sort of common sense would look at this study and realize that a policy change is in order. Unfortunately the policy makers within the Obama regime who are either useful idiots or psychotic criminals will do nothing of the sort.
According to the study there has been a 69% rise in terrorist attacks and an 89% increase in terrorist related fatalities from 2011.In addition, the number of people killed due to a terrorist attack has risen greatly since 2001.These figures clearly indicate that global terrorism has steadily risen throughout this so-called war on terrorism.
In reality, these numbers should be considered low due to the fact that this study does not include terrorist attacks launched by governments or state actors.
If they did include these numbers the amount of terrorist attacks and terrorist related fatalities would be much higher with the Obama regime topping the list as one of the world’s biggest terrorist organizations. The Obama regime has authorized countless drone strikes that have killed many civilians including women and children.These incidents should all be considered acts of terrorism.
To prove this point, the study used the following criteria to classify an incident as an act of terrorism.
It was aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious or social goal.
It was intended to coerce, intimidate or convey a message to a larger group.
It violated international humanitarian law by targeting non-combatants.
The Obama regime’s drone strikes certainly fulfill all three categories and if they were carried out by a non-state actor they would be considered terrorist attacks.These drone strikes have specifically targeted civilians who the Obama regime merely suspects are terrorists.This means that the Obama regime is acting as judge, jury and executioner.This is illegal and contrary to international law. … Full article
- US drone strikes under fire at UN (nation.com.pk)
- No explicit, implicit consent for drone strikes: Pakistan (rediff.com)
- U.S. “War On Terror” Has INCREASED Terrorism (blacklistednews.com)
- Empire Under Obama, Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign (thehamptoninstitute.wordpress.com)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared ‘utter nonsense’ the idea that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own people and called on the US to present its supposed evidence to the UN Security Council.
Putin has further called the Western tactic a ‘provocation.’
Washington has been basing its proposed strategy of an attack on Syria on the premise that President Bashar Assad’s government forces have used chemical agents, while Russia finds the accusations unacceptable and the idea of performing a military strike on the country even more so. Especially as it would constitute a violation of international law, if carried out without the approval of the UN Security Council.
Further to this, Putin told Obama that he should consider what the potential fallout from a military strike would be and to take into consideration the suffering of innocent civilians.
The Russian president has expressed certainty that the strategy for a military intervention in Syria is a contingency measure from outside and a direct response to the Syrian government’s recent combat successes, coupled with the rebels’ retreat from long-held positions.
“Syrian government forces are advancing, while the so-called rebels are in a tight situation, as they are not nearly as equipped as the government,” Putin told ITAR-TASS. He then laid it out in plain language:
“What those who sponsor the so-called rebels need to achieve is simple – they need to help them in their fight… and if this happens, it would be a tragic development,” Putin said.
Russia believes that any attack would, firstly, increase the already existing tensions in the country, and derail any effort at ending the war.
“Any unilateral use of force without the authorisation of the U.N. Security Council, no matter how ‘limited’ it is, will be a clear violation of international law, will undermine prospects for a political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict in Syria and will lead to a new round of confrontation and new casualties,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, adding that the threats [have been] issued by Washington “in the absence of any proof” of chemical weapons use.
On Friday, Washington said a plan for a limited military response was in the works to punish Assad for a “brutal and flagrant” chemical attack that allegedly killed more than 1,400 people in the capital Damascus 10 days ago.
The Syrian government has been denying all allegations, calling the accusation preposterous and pointing its own accusations against rebel forces, especially Al-Qaeda-linked extremists who have wreaked havoc on the country in the two years since the start of the civil war.
The Syrian government has accepted the ‘essential modalities’ under which the UN was ready to investigate whether chemical weapons had been used in the country, the body has announced, signalling that experts will shortly be traveling to Syria.
“The departure of the team is now imminent,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. “As agreed with the Government of Syria, the team will remain in the country to conduct its activities, including on-site visits, for a period of up to 14 days, extendable upon mutual consent.”
The Secretary-General has expressed his appreciation to the Syrian government for accepting “the modalities essential for cooperation to ensure the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the Mission.”
The statement also reminded that the use of chemical weapons “by any side under any circumstances” would constitute an “outrageous crime.”
Two weeks ago the United Nations said that an agreement had been reached with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government as to the three locations that UN inspectors would be investigating, led by Swedish scientist, Ake Sellstrom.
One site to be visited by the UN team is Khan al-Assal in Aleppo, where the country’s government says rebels used chemical weapons in March. The two additional locations have yet to be confirmed.
Both Syria’s government and rebel forces have long been accusing each other of using chemical weapons, and both have denied it.
Russia welcomed the move, saying on its Twitter feed that “Damascus is ready to bring clarity into the situation”, and expressing hope that the move will “provide a springboard for a political solution of the ongoing crisis”.
Last month Russia submitted “a full set of documents” to the UN and its analysis of samples taken west of Aleppo. Russia’s findings indicated that it was rebels behind the Khan al-Assal incident, in which more than 30 people died.
The United States cast doubt on the Russian findings saying its own intelligence services believed Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons. However, Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN commission’s inquiry into rights violations in Syria, said the evidence provided by the US did not meet standards as his commission was “very worried about the chain of custody of the substances.”
Back in March Damascus requested UN investigators to visit Khan al-Assal. The UN formed a mission then, but was reluctant to send it, demanding “unconditional and unfettered” access across the country, according to Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry rejected the UN’s effort to broaden the probe claiming that it was “at odds with the Syrian request” and that its “possible hidden intentions” could violate Syrian sovereignty.
In total, the UN received some 13 reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria and the UN inspectors will be investigating the “allegations” of chemical weapons use, rather than determining who was responsible for the attacks.
Cases of misconduct among airport screeners employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) increased by 26 per cent between 2010 and 2012, according to a new report. It comes as the agency expands its services beyond airport security gates.
The report, which was released last week by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), found 9,622 cases of misconduct among TSA workers from 2010 through the 2012 fiscal year. It concluded that the agency had insufficient procedures for reviewing and recording the outcomes of misconduct cases.
At the same time, fresh attention has been cast on TSA’s expanding its roles into train terminals and even sporting events in the form of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads, or VIPR teams, which have been assigned to counterterrorism security checks at transportation hubs in the US since 2005.
According to a profile published this week by The New York Times, TSA’s VIPR program now boasts a $100 million annual budget and is growing quickly. The scheme has grown since 2008, consisting of 37 teams in 2012.
Meanwhile, the agency’s records show that it has provided security for over 8,800 “unannounced checkpoints” and other search operations in conjunction with local law enforcement outside of airports. Such events have included the Indianapolis 500 race and both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
VIPR teams usually comprise of federal air marshals, explosives experts, and baggage inspectors. The squads move through crowds at events and transportation hubs with bomb-sniffing dogs and perform random stops on individuals. Plainclothes members of VIPR teams monitor crowds for suspicious behavior.
“Our mandate is to provide security and counterterrorism operations for all high-risk transportation targets, not just airports and aviation,” TSA administrator John S. Pistole said. “The VIPR teams are a big part of that.”
However, members of Congress and officials at the Department of Homeland Security question whether the teams are properly trained while civil liberties groups wonder what the VIPR teams have to do with TSA’s original mandate to provide security at the nation’s airports.
“The problem with TSA stopping and searching people in public places outside the airport is that there are no real legal standards, or probable cause,” said Khaliah Barnes, administrative law counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“It’s something that is easily abused because the reason that they are conducting the stops is shrouded in secrecy.”
Representative Bennie Thompson, a ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee with oversight of TSA, supports the VIPR teams but remains concerned about warrantless searches and the process of detecting suspicious behavior.
“This is a gray area,” he said. “I haven’t seen any good science that says that is what a terrorist looks like. Profiling can easily be abused,” Thompson told The New York Times.
As for the rising number of offenses among TSA workers, the majority of those listed in the report include attendance and leave violations and excessive absences or tardiness. Only a small fraction represented instances of theft.
Specific violations of screening and security rules were outlined in 20 per cent of the cases profiled in the report. One of those offenses included sleeping while on duty.
Although the GAO report does not indicate high occurrences of issues such as theft, there have still been some high profile cases among the 56,000-strong staff which is spread out among 450 airports across the US.
For example, a TSA officer at Orlando International Airport pleaded guilty to embezzlement and theft after stealing 80 laptop computers and electronics from passenger luggage in 2011. The items were worth $80,000.
Another TSA employee was arrested after allegedly stealing some $50,000 worth of electronics at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport the same year, although the GAO does not cite that incident.
It remains to be seen whether the occurrences of misconduct listed in the report will carry over into TSA’s growing role. For the most part, the presence of VIPR teams seems to mostly confuse and irritate the public.
A joint operation in 2012 involving VIPR, Houston police, and local transit officers led to complaints of stops and searches of bags. The deployment yielded a few arrests, mostly for passengers with existing warrants for prostitution and minor drug possession, according to The Times.
“It was an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Robert Fickman, a local defense lawyer who attended a subsequent meeting in the city packed with angry residents. “Did we need to have TSA in here for a couple of minor busts?”
A former station chief with the CIA has been detained in Panama after being on the run from Italian police for more than a decade.
Robert Seldon Lady, 59, was reportedly brought into custody early Thursday after surfacing in the Central American country. An Italian court convicted him in 2009 in absentia of abducting an Egyptian terror suspect from the streets of Milan, and he was sentenced in early 2013 to nine years in prison. Only now, however, has he been caught, according to a statement made Thursday by the Italian justice ministry.
The case against Lady marked the first time ever that a CIA agent was accused of kidnapping and brought to trial. Twenty-two other Americans, mostly intelligence officers, were also convicted for their role in the “extraordinary rendition” of a Muslim cleric.
Lady was the station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency post in Milan during the time of the abduction. He is accused of abducting Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and assisting in his years’ long detention which was reportedly accompanied with bouts of torture.
“I’m not guilty. I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors,” Lady told Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper in 2009.
Previously, Lady told GQ magazine in a candid interview that, “When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal.”
“It’s a life of illegality,” said Lady, “But state institutions in the whole world have professionals in my sector, and it’s up to us to do our duty.”
“I console myself by reminding myself that I was a soldier, that I was in a war against terrorism, that I couldn’t discuss orders given to me,” Lady said to Italian journalists.
Lady had served just shy of a quarter-century with the CIA at the time of the crime. He described his former employer to GQ years later as “the vanguard of democracy” and his role as “the greatest job I ever had.”
The widening of the spiral of fear and increasing demand for ‘protection’ creates an international protection racket cartel indistinguishable, only in that they call themselves ‘legal’, from organized criminal gangs.
UK security firms Serco and G4S, described as ‘indispensable’ to Britain’s criminal justice system, have been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for criminals who had long finished their sentences or been dead for years.
How many kicks in the teeth, or near misses, can this British Government endure before it sees 21st Century ‘terrorism’ for what it is? An organized assault on our collective peace and safety with the purpose of spawning real terrorist cells.
Profit led policing
On Thursday July 11, 2013 Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling delivered a progress report to the House of Commons on the privatization of UK Criminal Justice. His voice was trembling as though he himself could neither believe nor bear the consequences of what he was reading.
Two firms, he explained, Serco and G4S, have been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for electronic tagging of offenders, as well as continuing to charge the taxpayer for criminals who had long finished their sentences and some who had been dead for years.
The same week a London inquest jury delivered its verdict that Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga was unlawfully killed while being restrained by G4S guards. His plane was waiting to take off at London’s Heathrow airport when he died and a series of racist SMS texts were also found on the G4S guards’ phones.
Founded in 2004, G4S employs over 600,000 people in 125 countries with revenue of £7.5bn, making it the world’s largest security company. Despite its size G4S appears to have little regard for international law, taking on private prison work in Palestine/Israel which is alleged to contravene Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Transporting prisoners from the occupied territory into the country of the occupier.
Serco and G4S are now so deep into Britain’s criminal justice system the Guardian recently described them as ‘indispensable’. Serco manage six prisons including Oakwood ‘super-jail’ and two immigration removal centres. G4S manage police custody cells, a 999 emergency response service, county control room, police station and court facilities.
Britain’s criminal justice system is indeed becoming utterly entangled in the G4S web. The initiative is shifting with immense pressure being put on Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to sign up to G4S privatization deals which promise to slash budgets. In times of ‘austerity’ private security firms are getting the whip hand.
Although the ‘savings’ may look good, privatizing the criminal justice system moves society closer to the abyss. As the profit motive creeps in and accountability leaves by the side door we may as well dispense with the word ‘justice’ entirely. US Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr, for example, was sentenced to 28 years in jail in May 2013′s ‘kids for cash’ scandal where over 4,000 children were given maximum jail terms in exchange for over $2m in bribes from the private firm that ran the jails.
Protection racket cartel
In July of 2012 London prepared to host its first Olympics since 1948. But behind the scenes one thing threatened to spoil it for everyone. The main security firm was playing games with the Olympic Committee and the government.
G4S said it was ready, all the risk assessment boxes were ticked and certified. The trouble was they were lying. With only a month to go until the great show got on the road recruitment was nowhere near the numbers required and training was pitiful.
With only three weeks to go the British army saved the day, stepping in with 3,500 soldiers to replace the senior and mid-ranking G4S staff. How that came about is a cautionary tale about private security that was never fully told by the London press.
The world’s biggest private security firm G4S had a £300m contract to hire 10,500 staff for the games. They made sure it all looked good for police and Olympic organisers on paper … but unbeknown to them media savvy G4S trainee Ben Fellows was busy collecting particulars from his G4S classmates about just what a disaster of a ‘training operation’ was unfolding around them.
On Friday June 22nd, five weeks before the opening ceremony, Ben sensationally broke cover on my Bristol radio show under the pseudonym ‘Lee Hazledean’. With quotes like “If a terrorist wants to get into the Olympics all they have to do is queue up” he detailed the G4S shambles and became an internet sensation, clocking up over 120,000 YouTube views in a little over a week.
But his story presented the London media with a problem: if printed and transmitted tens of thousands of Olympic enthusiasts might stay away. One teenage girl, initially delighted with tickets her parents had bought her, told me after she heard the interview “I don’t want to go the Olympics any more… but I don’t know how to tell my mum”.
Running straight after Fellows’ interview Oxford economist & terrorism expert Martin Summers, reminded us that lawyer Kurt Haskell spotted the 2009 Underpants bomber being allowed onto the plane without a passport… again by private security.
He also pointed out the alleged 9/11 hijackers boarded the doomed planes in Boston via private security firms. If those attacks are being carried out by a private military company ICTS & G4S could, far from preventing, be the facilitators of terror attacks said Summers.
The next week, on Tuesday 26 June 2012 the Director General of MI5 Jonathan Evans appeared on Channel 4 News. Gone was the “wide open to terror” claim. Security correspondent Simon Israel just repeated Evans’ assertion that “the Olympics Games is not an easy target for terrorists”.
Except perhaps, Evans said, there may be an Iranian, Syrian or Hezbollah attack. What these countries and factions could hope to gain from bombing the Olympics neither Simon Israel, nor Jonathan Evans, who has since been replaced, attempted to explain.
So Ben Fellows was right because with three weeks to go 3,500 British soldiers were drafted in to take charge and the story of the G4S fiasco dominated national headlines for a week. Now the fix was in the London media were safe.
With less of a fanfare, Israeli President Shimon Peres announced he would no longer be coming to London. He and his staff had been promised special permission to stay in the central athletes only Olympic Village so he wouldn’t have to walk far and could observe the Jewish Shabbat. Under the new security regime they would have to stay outside the park like everyone else. You can tell real security, nobody bypasses it.
Back in September 2004, private Israeli software firm Verint Systems were granted privileged security access to the London Underground. This was ten months before the 7/7 London bombings.
Verint won a contract to install and operate ‘smart’ CCTV. So smart in fact that all the hundreds of expected images of July 2005 alleged bombers getting onto or travelling on the three bombed tube trains were ‘lost’.
So what of this company’s bona-fides’? Verint’s parent company Comverse Technologies had an embarrassing chairman. Israeli Kobi Alexander fled the US in 2006 and went straight on to the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list after stealing from his own firm.
Charged on 35 counts he was chased by Wall Street regulators the Security & Exchange Commission (SEC). Finally being run to ground via Germany to Namibia. In 2010 he paid a fine of $53m to avoid going to court and regain his freedom to travel.
A previous incarnation of Verint Systems, Comverse Infosys, was implicated in the US’s 2001 AmDocs spying scandal where Israeli phone software, installed on US telecom networks, was being used to warn Israeli mafia drug traffickers to switch phones and identities when the FBI were tapping their phones. 200 or so Israelis were arrested and most deported.
But what about the most recent terror attacks? The April 2013 Boston bombings has some of the most serious problems of FBI and mainstream media credibility to date. Not only does there seem to be little to connect the official suspects to the bombing but a private ‘Craft’ security guard at the scene has a black bag that seems to ‘disappear’ around the time the bomb went off.
“Hey Bro, Where’d Your Backpack Go” was one set of images from the finish line circulated to tens of thousands when CBS 60 Minutes’ Twitter account was hacked. Again it appears to anyone with the time to take a look for themselves that private security should be a prime suspect in that bombing.
Neither does mainstream press seem to question why one of the FBI’s two official ‘prime suspects’, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was filmed under arrest, naked, unharmed and being sat down in the back of a police car but then somehow died of horrific wounds sustained when he was previously ‘run over’ by his brother Tamerlan.
If even just a small proportion of these allegations are true then ‘double your money’ private security firms paid for providing security at an event or location may be abusing that privileged access for ‘quid pro quo’ deals. Certainly the mainstream press are simply not asking even the most obvious questions.
Unscrupulous staff, ex mercenaries as some are, can then also be paid for tip-offs, to turn a blind eye, possibly with a nod and a wink from the top. They may even actually plant bombs themselves. A ‘false flag’ attack can have a massive political impact and, if the media oblige and look the other way, be blamed on the enemy of the day.
These dangers should make it clear that secretive and profit motivated private security companies must under no circumstances be allowed to replace publicly accountable police or armed forces.
Microsoft worked hand-in-hand with the United States government in order to allow federal investigators to bypass encryption mechanisms meant to protect the privacy of millions of users, Edward Snowden told The Guardian.
According to an article published on Thursday by the British newspaper, internal National Security Agency memos show that Microsoft actually helped the federal government find a way to decrypt messages sent over select platforms, including Outlook.com Web chat, Hotmail email service, and Skype.
The Guardian wrote that Snowden, the 30-year-old former systems administrator for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided the paper with files detailing a sophisticated relationship between America’s intelligence sector and Silicon Valley.
The documents, which are reportedly marked top-secret, come in the wake of other high-profile disclosures attributed to Snowden since he first started collaborating with the paper for articles published beginning June 6. The United States government has since indicted Snowden under the Espionage Act, and he has requested asylum from no fewer than 20 foreign nations.
Thursday’s article is authored by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two journalists who interviewed Snowden at length before he publicly revealed himself to be the source of the NSA leaks. They are joined by co-authors Ewen MacAskill, Spencer Ackerman and Dominic Rushe, who wrote that the classified documents not only reveal the degree in which Microsoft worked with the feds, but also detail the PRISM internet surveillance program. The US government’s relationships with tech companies are also included in the documents, according to the journalists.
“The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration,” the journalists wrote. “All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their cooperation with the NSA to meet their customers’ privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.”
In the case of Microsoft, however, it appears as if the Bill Gates-founded tech company went out of its way to assist federal investigators.
Among the discoveries made by the latest Snowden leaks, Guardian journalists say that Microsoft specifically aided the NSA in circumventing encrypted chat messages sent over the Outlook.com portal before the product was even launched to the public.
“The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year,” they wrote. “Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats.”
According to internal documents cited by the journalists, Microsoft “developed a surveillance capability” that was launched “to deal” with the feds’ concerns that they’d be unable to wiretap encrypted communications conducted over the Web in real time.
“These solutions were successfully tested and went live 12 Dec 2012,” the memo claims, two months before the Outlook.com portal was officially launched.
In a tweet, Greenwald wrote that “the ‘document’ for the Microsoft story is an internal, ongoing NSA bulletin over 3 years,” and that The Guardian “quoted all relevant parts.” The document is not included in the article.
The Guardian revealed that Microsoft worked with intelligence agencies in order to let administrators of the PRISM data collection program easily access user intelligence submitted through its cloud storage service SkyDrive, as well as Skype.
“Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio,” the journalists wrote.
That allegation comes in stark contrast to claims made previously by Skype, in which it swore to protect the privacy of its users. RT reported previously that earlier documentation supplied by Snowden showed that the government possesses the ability to listen in or watch Skype chats “when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of ‘audio, video, chat and file transfers’ when Skype users connect by computer alone.”
RT earlier acknowledged that Microsoft obtained a patent last summer that provides for “legal intercept” technology. The technology allows agents to “silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session” without asking for user authorization. In recent weeks, however, Microsoft has attacked the government over its secretive spy powers and even asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court if it could be more transparent in discussing the details of FISA requests compiling tech companies for data.
“We continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues,” Microsoft Vice President John Frank wrote last month.
“In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps,” Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union told The Guardian. “It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.”
Earlier this week, Yahoo requested that the FISA court unseal documents from its own FISA battle. The court ruling in 2008 compelled Yahoo – and later other Silicon Valley entities – to supply the government with user data without requiring a warrant.
“Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51 percent belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time,” The Guardian reporters wrote. “Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.”
During a March press conference, FBI general counsel Andrew Weissman said that federal investigators plan on being able to wiretap any real-time Internet conversation by the end of 2014.
“You do have laws that say you need to keep things for a certain amount of time, but in the cyber realm you can have companies that keep things for five minutes,” he said. “You can imagine totally legitimate reasons for that, but you can also imagine how enticing that ability is for people who are up to no good because the evidence comes and it goes.”
Former CIA officer Ray McGovern expanded further on the subject to RT, remembering the Bush presidency and how unsurprising it is that this sort of breach of rights continues to exist.
“If you look at what happened when Bush, Cheney and General Hayden – who was head of the NSA at the time – deliberately violated the law to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant, did the telecommunications companies cooperate? Verizon, AT&T…All the giants did…the one that didn’t was Quest. And what happened to Quest? Well, the CEO ended up in jail – and he still might be in jail – on some unrelated charges.”
Later the Congress voted to hold everyone in an innocent light, including the companies who were complicit in the spying. So there is absolutely no disincentive not to engage in violating people’s rights, McGovern warns.
Shocking new revelations come as activists prepare to sue the U.S. military for unlawful spying
Anti-war activists who were infiltrated and spied on by the military for years have now been placed on the domestic terrorist list, they announced Monday. The shocking revelation comes as the activists prepare to sue the U.S. military for unlawful spying.
“The fact that a peaceful activist such as myself is on this domestic terrorist list should be cause for concern for other people in the US,” declared Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We’ve seen an increase in the buildup of a mass surveillance state under the Obama and Bush Administrations.”
The discovery is the latest development in a stunning saga that exposes vast post-9/11 spying networks in which military, police, and federal agencies appear to be in cahoots.
Documents declassified in 2009 reveal that military informant John Towery, going by the name ‘John Jacob,’ spent over two years infiltrating and spying on Olympia, Washington anti-war and social justice groups, including Port Militarization Resistance, Students for a Democratic Society, the Industrial Workers of the World, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Towery admitted to the spying and revealed that he shared information with not only the military, but also the police and federal agencies. He claimed that he was not the only spy.
The activists, who blast the snooping as a violation of their First and Fourth Amendment rights, levied a lawsuit against the military in 2009.
“The spying resulted in plaintiffs and others being targeted for repeated harassment, preemptive and false arrest, excessive use of force, and malicious prosecution,” reads a statement by the plaintiffs.
The Obama Administration attempted to throw out the litigation, but in December 2012 the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the case could continue.
When the plaintiffs were preparing their deposition for the courts two weeks ago, they were shocked to discover that several Olympia anti-war activists were listed on the domestic terrorist list, including at least two plaintiffs in the case.
The revelations prompted them to amend their lawsuit to include charges that the nonviolent activists were unlawfully targeted as domestic terrorists.
“The breadth and intensity of the spying by U.S. Army officials and other law enforcement agents is staggering,” said Larry Hildes, National Lawyers Guild attorney who filed the lawsuit in 2009. “If nonviolent protest is now labeled and treated as terrorism, then democracy and the First Amendment are in critical danger.”
Plaintiffs say this case takes on a new revelevance as vast NSA dragnet spying sparks widespread outrage.
“I think that there is a huge potential for the case to set precedent,” declared plaintiff Julianne Panagacos. “This could have a big impact on how the U.S. military and police are able to work together.”
She added, “I am hopeful we will win.”
The US is scaling back its Guantanamo prosecutions from 36 to 20 or less, admitting that it lacks the evidence to convict many of the detainees of international war crimes.
Of the 166 detainees held at the prison camps, few have viable charges to face war crimes tribunal. Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals, told Reuters that the 36 detainees the US initially sought to prosecute was an “ambitious” number.
The Guantanamo Review Task Force completed a review in 2010 that made this determination, but Martins said no more than 20 detainees have viable charges that prosecutors could realistically pursue. Seven of these have already undergone their trials, and six are facing pretrial hearings this week and next.
The drastic reduction of prosecutions comes in light of the dismissal of Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden whose conviction was overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit last October. Hamdan had been convicted by a US military commission of providing material support to al-Qaeda terrorists, but the appeals court decided that this was not a crime under international rule of law at the time that Hamdan worked for bin Laden.
The US Congress in 2006 passed the Military Commissions Act, which defines an “unlawful enemy combatant” as someone “who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant”. The appeals court concluded that this law could not be applied retroactively, and Hamdan’s charges were dismissed.
Hamdan had already finished his sentence and returned to Yemen when his charges were thrown out, but the court ruling caused Guantanamo prosecutors to give up on many of the other cases they initially sought to pursue, Martins told Reuters.
Although some of the detainees facing war crimes tribunal are already known, Martins did not identify them all by name.
On Monday, US military prosecutors filed charges against Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi for a war crime coined “perfidy”, claiming that he coordinated a series of suicide attacks on US and allied troops and civilians in Afghanistan. Army Lt. Col. Chris Callen, a lawyer appointed to defend al-Hadi, told AP that he would go over the charges with the detainee on Tuesday.
Pretrial hearings will also begin next week for five prisoners accused of being involved in the planning of the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Pretrial hearings are currently underway for Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian man accused of directing a number of suicide attacks, including the bombing of the USS Cole, which resulted in the deaths of 17 American sailors.
Both Nashiri and Mohammed are facing the death penalty, but of the 166 detainees still held at Guantanamo, only 20 may ever be prosecuted.