Archive | May 4th, 2013

Was the Syria Chemical Weapons Probe “Torpedoed” by the West?

NOVANEWS
Global Research

 

Since the perplexing conflict in Syria first broke out two years ago, the Western powers’ assistance to the anti-government side has been consistent, but relatively indirect. The Americans and Europeans lay the mental, legal, diplomatic, and financial groundwork for regime change in Syria. Meanwhile, Arab/Muslim allies in Turkey and the Persian Gulf are left with the heavy lifting of directly supporting Syrian rebels, and getting weapons and supplementary fighters in place.

The involvement of the United States in particular has been extremely lackluster, at least in comparison to its aggressive stance on a similar crisis in Libya not long ago. Hopes of securing major American and allied force, preferrably a Libya-style “no-fly zone,” always leaned most on U.S. president Obama’s announcement of December 3, 2012, that any use of chemical weapons (CW) by the Assad regime – or perhaps their simple transfer – will cross a “red line.” And that, he implied, would trigger direct U.S. intervention. This was followed by vague allegations by the Syrian opposition – on December 6, 8, and 23 – of government CW attacks. [1] Nothing changed, and the allegations stopped for a while.

However, as the war entered its third year in mid-March, 2013, a slew of new allegations came flying in. This started with a March 19 attack on Khan Al-Assal, a contested western district of Aleppo, killing a reported 25-31 people. Dramatic imagery run by state news agency SANA and from a Reuters photographer showed people – including children – suffering breathing problems, some already deceased. The Syrian government and related sources were the first to report it, blaming “terrorists” as usual. In an equally predictable answer, rebels accused the Syrian military of launching the attack. [2]

Syria demanded an investigation into the event by the United Nations, and everyone else agreed. A team was assembled, but then in early April Syria blocked them, for reasons that come across as mysterious. Soon, the world was hearing unprecedent recognition that perhaps Obama’s “red line” had been crossed – not by “terrorists” but by the Assad regime – somewhere, at some times since December. The deadly nerve agent sarin is increasingly specified for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.

All this has kicked off a renewed drive for intervention based on intelligence assessments of WMD dangers, evoking widely-noted memories of the bogus U.S. case for war on Syria’s ally Iraq one decade ago. Although the latest developments cast doubt on the imminence of outright military involvement – yet again – the danger persists, and the purported reasons deserve scrutiny.

It’s only been six weeks since this saga began, but they were weeks of the whirlwind sort. Considering where all the twirling has left us – horribly confused, if not on the brink of war – I offer this article towards unspinning the record to discover just what happened in that time.

Three Highlighted Chemical Weapons Allegations

At the start of the six weeks was the March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal, Aleppo and Syria’s dramatic charges over it. But before considering that or the investigation saga, it might be useful to briefly outline the three reported attacks forced now into question, as they are confused. The investigation model now prevailing, first prposed by the Bristish and French governments on March 21, involved three incidents singled out; Khan al-Assal and a same-day incident in the Damascus area, as well as another one in the city of Homs, on December 23, 2012. [3]

The opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC), drawing on front-line fighters, reported the incident at Otaybah (Ateiba) near Damascus, in their daily summary of March 19. (interestingly, this mentions two CW incidents, while failing to mention the Aleppo incident. In its place they mentioned a possible gas attack in Baba Amr, Homs, which no one else has repeated since). [4] The LCC said “fierce shelling with chemical rockets targeted Ateibeh town today,” causing “a large number” of people to suffer breathing problems, nausea, and “hysteria,” as well as causing the death of some “martyrs.” [4] The number of fatalities is not stated, here or anywhere easily found. Otaybah is reported to have been a rebel-held area, but very near Syrian military positions, adding plausibility to the report. Also of interest is that SANA and the Syrian government had nothing immediately to say on the incident there.

There would be further CW allegations in the east Damascus suburbs: Aadra March 24, Jobar April 6, and Otaybah again April 9, at least. All came with some evidence but slim details, and are sure to increase interest in investigating there. One or more of these sites would allegedly yield soil samples with possible traces of sarin gas (see below).

The December Homs Attack listed in the Anglo-French letter was talked about at the time, in many dramatic news reports. A handful of videos from a clinic in the Al-Bayada district show patients gasping horribly for breath. All victims seem to be rebel fighters in civilian dress. The death toll was said to be six, with as many as 100 people exposed. People took this charge seriously, but it was dismissed by mid-January as not a CW attack. [5] CNN reported then on a State Department investigation that found it was probably a riot-control gas used in the wrong concentration. Further, CNN hear that Turkey also looked into this case “but found the claims to be unsubstantiated.” [6] The methodology was not explained, and the dismissal is not certain. Now the incident is back in the limelight, thought by the British and French to require urgent scrutiny.

Khan Al-Assal

But however important those other cases are, all this investigation drama began immediately after the well-documented incident in Aleppo. Little about the event is agreed on by both sides, but where the strike happened is one commonality. Khan al-Assal has been in rebel hands, but almost everyone agrees to consider it government-held by the 19th (aside from a rebel-occupied police academy). Channel 4’s Alex Thomson heard that authorities only re-established full control two days before the attack (he also heard it was a predominately Shi’ite district.) [7] Rebels say the regime hit its own area either on accident, or to make it look like rebels did it.

That Syrians were killed in moderate numbers is not contested. The early reports specified 25-26 fatalities, with some rebel estimates lower, and the government tally later adjusted to 31. In the images publicized, some victims are civilians, including women and children, and some are fighting age males in Syrian army uniforms. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition group but with a variety of sources, reported a “rocket” (no mention of gas) causing 26 fatalities – ten civilians, 16 soldiers. [8] SANA said the rocket hit “in a region populated by civilians,” but only 300 meters from a Syrian Arab Army post. [9]

No one disputes the date. This itself is a clue, coming as it does after several events that invited a crossing of Obama’s “red line.” From March 15-18, the rebellion’s second anniversary passed, the U.S. treasury freed citizens to finance Syria’s opposition, NATO reminded everyone they were prepared for war, and a U.S. citizen from Texas was elected prime minister of the Syrian National Coalition. When Ghassan Hitto was chosen on March 18, the Syrian-American Council “said the decision should assuage the Obama administration’s concerns about who would lead Syria should President Bashar al-Assad be deposed.” [10] Why Damascus would decided to test Obama’s chemical ultimatum on the morning of the 19th, of all times, is difficult to understand.

Further, the approximate time of that test is one more undisputed point: around 7:30-8:00 am by all accounts. But just about everything else is disagreed.

Various chemical agents have been suggested by rebels and their supporters, but sarin is not one of them; the later talk of that seems to surround soil from one of the Damascus area attacks. However, an industrial accident has been suggested, along with “super strength tear gas” and something with “traces of cyanide.” Israeli DEBKA file heard from “Western military sources” an educated guess that chlorine, phosphorous, and a nerve agent (BZ or Agent 15) were used in “the Scud B rocket which exploded in the Aleppo neighborhood of Khan al-Assal.” [11] Perhaps most intriguingly, the U.S.-based Syrian Support Group intriguingly cited“echothiophate” for both March 19 attacks, Damascus and Aleppo. [12] Widely used as a treatment for the eye ailment glaucoma, this could be a clue that president Bashar Al-Assad, a former eye doctor, personally made the poison choice.

Besides these, there seem to be no other concrete guesses as to what hit Khan al-Assal.

The way the gas was delivered comes across in opposition reports, vaguely, as something rebels don’t have. At least two alleged witnesses cite fighter jets, one specifying that they missed their target by about 5 km. [13] The more widely accepted explanation is a surface-to-surface missile, probably a Scud. But this too has problems; CNN spoke to “a senior State Department official” who said there was no radar or satellite data to “indicate there was a launch of a missile at the time Syrians say the alleged attack occurred.” [14] That’s the same time rebels say an alleged Scud was launched, so whether he meant to or not, the official contradicted the rebel claim here.

In contrast, the government claims a smaller homemade rocket, armed with a chlorine and saline warhead, was fired on their forces. [7] Supporting the chemical claim, the first reports had noted that residents said they could smell chlorine in the area following the attack. [15] And consider that the launch of a smaller projectile like this should probably not show up in the data CNN referred to, meaning that clue (if it’s even true) does not coflict with the government version, the way it does the rebel one.

One issue working against the Damascus version is the two firing locations specified. First SANA reported the rocket came from Kafr Dael (Kafr Taal on Wikimapia, 13 km west of Khan al-Assal). [9] Later Alex Thomson heard that al-Bab, 47 km northeast, was the suspected origin. [7] While no more than one of those can be correct, either is entirely plausible. Rockets that could reach from al-Bab are rare, but one improvised model launched on video, near Damascus in February, was said by its handlers to have a range of 60 kilometers. [16] This, or some equivalent weapon, could work from either specified locale the following month.

As for the chlorine, it’s known to be held by rebels in large amounts. [17] CNN’s Aryn Baker related how the reported smell of the attack stood out to “the owner of Syria’s only chlorine-gas manufacturing plant,” Mohammad Sabbagh. He had fled to Lebanon, and spoke to Baker in Beirut. He says the plant, just east of Aleppo, was taken over by Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) in August 2012. “There is no other factory in Syria that can make this gas, and now it is under opposition control,” he says.” He hears that the plant is not operating now, but Sabbagh “has no idea what has happened, if anything,” to the one-ton tanks of chlorine gas, roughly 400 of which once stored there. Sabbagh is supported in his account by a head of the Aleppo Chamber of Industry. Passing through Beirut, he told Baker “we warned back then that chemical components were in the hands of terrorists, but no one listened.” [18]

At play then are: plenty of chlorine, rockets with range, expertise obtainable to serious terrorist networks, and many basing areas within range of loyalist-held Khan al-Assal. Given all that, it’s little comfort to hear as a denial, from opposition spokesman Louay Meqdad,“we have neither long-range missiles nor chemical weapons. And if we did, we wouldn’t use them against a rebel target.” [19] Syria, in contrast, swears if they had CW, they would never use them against their own people at all.

As we examine the battle over an investigation, it should be noted from the start that the case for a rebel attack in Aleppo is stronger and clearer than most realize. In fact it seems clearer by a healthy margin than the version rebels have so far offered. Yet that narrative and that attack in general have been effectively sidelined, in favor of whole other alleged attacks.

Conflicting Urgencies at the U.N.: The Battle Over Scope

Both initial versions of the gas attack on Khan Al-Assal, reported by the warring Syrian parties, came with moral denunciation of the perpetators on the other side, and these were echoed by outside supporters along unsurprising lines. Russia’s foreign ministry, for example, said

“the use of chemical weapons by the armed opposition … (is) a new and extremely alarming and dangerous turn.” They added “we are extremely, seriously concerned by the fact that weapons of mass destruction have gotten into militants’ hands.” [20]

The demand for an investigation began with Syria’s government, the day after the attack. Their representative at the U.N., Dr. Bashar Al-Ja’afari, on the 20th requested the Secretary-General to form a “mission to investigate the use by the terrorist groups operating in Syria of chemical weapons yesterday against civilians.” He specified that the effort should be “technical” “independent,” and “neutral.” [21] Russia supported that, with deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov saying “we expect that the UN secretary general will promptly react to Syria’s request.” Iran backed the call, and continued pressing various nations and leaders, with little success, to condemn the attack as an opposition one. [22]

Western powers always publicly doubted rebels were behind the incident, but agreed it was worthy of investigation; every party was clear that they wanted the truth. Both sides agreed on using terms like “impartial” and “urgent” to describe their solutions, yet the best approach was consistently disagreed on.

Both Russia and Syria complained on the 20th, the same day Syria first asked for a probe, that the UK and France had blocked it, in a “stalling” measure. [21] The Western powers used the stall to explain, in a letter from France and the UK on the 21st, why the U.N. should instead “launch an urgent investigation into all allegations.” [23] In particular, they added the Otaybah attack, Reuters heard, “and one in Homs in December.” [24] On hearing a demand to investigate the Otaybah incident, representative al-Ja’afari said he’d never heard of it, proposing that it “was set up on purpose to torpedo the investigation on the real use of chemical weapons which took place in Aleppo.” [21] Russia’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin voiced suspicion that “this was really a way to delay the need for immediate, urgent investigation of allegations pertaining to March 19 by raising all sorts of issues.” [21] This “unjustified step” of widening the probe, Russia’s foreign ministry warned (perhaps with some hyperbole) “wrecks the investigation of concrete information.” [25]

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon first seemed favorable to Syria’s position; he announced on March 21 that “I am of course aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons,” but the probe would focus on “the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government.” [3] However, he announced on the 25th that it might be broadened, and asked for more information from everyone. [3]

Reuters was given letters between U.N. Disarmament director Angela Kane and Syria’s Ja’afari, discussing the investigation’s terms. In one, Kane said Aleppo would be the main focus, but “we must remain mindful of the other allegations that chemical weapons were used elsewhere in the country.” [26] It was apparently the U.N. end that leaked the conversation; an April 6 letter had Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem complaining to Secretary-General Ban that the leaks “left the impression of a lack of seriousness on the part of the (U.N.) secretariat on cooperation in good faith.” That too was shared with Reuters. [27]

Syria’s stern and narrow insistence on its initial request is clearly part of the impasse that resulted. Given the risks of war, it would seem unwise to refuse cooperation, and the exact reasons they didn’t are not widely or clearly understood. There is the pride issue, and other considerations, like signs of bad faith (leaking letters), and of deeper duplicity. For example, it was promised that the Khan al-Assal portion of the probe would be handled “initially” and/or “primarily.” But a Western diplomat told Reuters on March 27 that the U.N. team would be based in Beirut, Lebanon. [28] That’s clear across Syria from Aleppo, but quite near the sites around Damascus and Homs, which were the “primary” interests, it seems.

Rather than blocking the investigation they requested, Damascus held open the door to Khan Al-Assal this whole time. Foreign minister Moualem even modified the offer on April 6, as a Reuters reported suumed it up, “the inspectors should go first to Aleppo and if they are seen to be impartial, the possibility of visiting Homs could be discussed.” [27] The Jerusalem Post reported that “Western delegations” didn’t like this; they “said the Syrian response of April 6 was unacceptable and that the chemical weapons team must have assurances now that it can visit both Aleppo and Homs.” [29] (And also the Damascus area, presumably.)

Whatever suspicion about what would happen afterwards, one site could be agreed to by all and investigated without delay. As the U.S. representative to the U.N., Susan Rice, said on the 21st, as Aleppo seemed to be the priority: “the United States supports an investigation that pursues any and all credible allegations … as swiftly as possible.” [30] But Secretary-General Ban re-affirmed in a public statement of April 9 that it could wait. He said:

“It is a matter of principle that when there is an allegation, whether it is one or two or multiple allegations, all these allegations should be investigated. Only then will we be sure that there was or there were uses of chemical weapons. Without that nobody can be sure.” [31]

He does not explain why investigators needed to knowing what happened at x number of other sites in order to know what happened in Aleppo. But without bending to that inexplicably holistic philosophy, and its growing list of interlocking allegations, Syria would get no U.N. investigation at all. Perhaps for dramatic effect, as Ban noted,

“an advance team was in Cyprus, ready to go to Syria within 24 hours. … All we are waiting for is the go-ahead from the Syrian government … to determine whether any chemicals weapons were used, in any location.” [32]

It was quite an impasse. Syria’s request, it could be argued, had been torpedoed.

Rejecting Regime Change Maneuvers

Besides the issue of which incidents to study, the Russian foreign ministry felt there was a shift from Syria’s request for help to increasingly invasive demands on the government. They stated that the shift came “under pressure from Western members of the (security) council,” and might represent “attempts to drag this issue out and turn an investigation under the aegis of the United Nations … into an additional element of pressure for regime change.” [25]

Russia said that for geopolitical balance, all permanent five (P5) members of the Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China) should send experts for the probe. [24] Secretary-General Ban answered by banning scientists from all P5 members, as well as from other involved parties, like Gulf Arab states and Turkey. [33] Syra thought they should have a say in staffing the investigation, but the U.N.’s Ban reserved the right. [26] However, Ban decided the probe would instead be staffed by varied scientists from elsewhere, selected by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). [28]

As nice as that sounds, the OPCW’s director-general is Ahmet Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat with possibly compromising links to his belligerent nation. According to his Wikipedia entry, Üzümcü was previously Turkey’s consul in Aleppo, as well as ambassador in Israel and the permanent representative of Turkey to NATO. [34] This could hardly help Syria to feel anything other than threatened; the selected scientists would be, in effect, deciding if they could turn up justification for the US/NATO to openly join in the war against Syria, waged most fiercely so far from Mr. Üzümcü’s home nation.

From the outset, there were signs that the West and the U.N.’s leadership intended the requested investigation(s) to lead into Iraq-style inspections of Syria’s closely-watched CW stockpiles. Ban Ki Moon insisted that the investigation would require “unfettered access” to locales not clearly defined, and cryptically noted

“It is my hope that the mission would contribute to ensuring the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.” [35]

He didn’t specify how a narrow, blame-free, technical mission to investigate what happened in one or even three locations would help make Syria’s alleged CW more secure. That it would become a sneak inspections regime in the Iraq vein, however, might explain that strange hope.

Syria’s decision-makers can hardly have missed these further clues that this was the plan:

1) The investigation, staff, mandate, etc. was to be negotiated between Syria and, specifically, the U.N.’s office for Disarmament Affairs.

2) Swedish scientist Åke Sellström was put in charge. He had previously been a chief inspector for UNSCOM, the U.N. inspection team of the 1990s, and worked with UNMOVIC in 2002, which found no basis for the claims on which the war on Iraq was launched anyway. [3]

3) The “investigators” as originally tasked were increasingly referred to as “inspectors.”

More important yet were signs of invasive intent. Ban specified, publicly even, that the U.N. would have to investigate “in any location.” [32] Russia’s foreign ministry announced on April 6, as a Reuters report summed up, that the U.N. “was seeking overly broad access for investigators to facilities and individuals (note: not crime scenes) in Syria and wanted to use aircraft for transportation. “This approach brings to mind the line taken over an investigation into the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq, which was based on deliberately false data and led to well-known consequences,” it said, … “We consider such actions unacceptable and inadmissible by any party and moreover by the leadership of the U.N. Secretariat.“” [36]

While the full details remain unclear, Russia’s accusations in this area remained dramatic and troubling. Foreign ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich told RT on April 27 that:

“The management of the UN Secretariat demanded that Damascus agree to the establishment of a permanent mechanism for inspection throughout Syrian territory with unlimited access to everywhere. … The proposed scheme of inspections is similar to those used at the end of the last century in Iraq, which, unlike Syria, was under UN sanctions.” [37]

Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zouabi, told RT that one of the goals of the investigation as configured “is to repeat Iraq’s scenario, to pave the way for other investigation inspections. To provide, based on their results, maps, photos of rockets and other fabricated materials to the UN, which as we know, opened the way to the occupation of Iraq.” [37]

It was just after all of this was established that access was explicitly denied. Just as Ban and the West made it most clear by April 8/9 that the inspection must be all-or-nothing, Damascus announced, essentially, that it would have to be nothing. Syria’s foreign ministry on April 8th said Ban has “suggested a supplementary mission to deploy throughout Syrian territory” and placed “additional tasks” that would constitute a “violation of Syrian sovereignty.” He did so, they said, under “pressure exercised by states known for their support for the shedding of Syrian blood,” and which intended to kill the investigation. And so, they announced, “Syria cannot accept these maneuvers from the UN’s Secretariat-General, taking into account the truth of the negative role it played in Iraq.” [38]

Most Western media reports blame the impasse on Syria. They did in fact block the U.N. team’s entry into Syria. However, as this article shows, there were several questionable actions (and alleged actions) by the other side determining what the “no” came in response to. And most reports cite the scope of attacks to investigate as the only dispute. But these inexplicably invasive aspects seems to be the straws that broke the camel’s back, and were laid more quietly, right before the audible snap. Therefore, they deserve more scrutiny and explanation.

Consider this: if the government had been demanded to surrender and disband before any inspection, no one could blame them for refusing. That extreme example set one end of the scale on which Damascus’ decision was made.

On one end is a design to force Syria to reject its own investigation in a way that can be easily blamed on them alone. On the other end is a regime so desperate to conceal its patterns of abuse that it blocked the most reasonable of demands. U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell took this view, saying “if the regime has nothing to hide they should let the UN investigators in immediately so we can get to the bottom of this.” After strongly suggesting they did have something to hide, Ventrell threatened that all options – including military ones – remained open. [39]

Sarin After the Failure: Confusion Yields to “Confidence”

To be clear, the investigation was not quite fatally sabotaged. In lieu of in-country investigation, the U.N. saysSellström’s team was working on Cyprus, investigating what they could from there. Spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing “you need to be able to go into Syria to be able to do that investigation properly on site, but in the meantime … information is available without actually visiting Syria.” [39] Hypothetically, this could still expand into something more substantial, but past events leave little room to suspect it will.

For more on-the-ground work, independent alleged investigations took over. British intelligence MI6 secured soil samples from Aleppo, the Sunday Times reported, and gave it to analysts at Porton Down military research institute. They dismissed the incident there as from “super strength tear gas,” after looking at videos but before studying the dirt. [40] This cursory guess effectively played the incident down, while Syria was pursuing an investigation. After the 8th, the mood of the science changed. The Times of Israel reported on the 13th that other soil MI6 collected, from “a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus,” shows signs of “some kind of chemical weapon.” The scientists wouldn’t say which, but specified “it can’t definitively be said to be Sarin nerve agent,” suggesting perhaps that it was. [41] Perhaps based on this, Britain and France wrote separately to the UN on or before April 18, more sure than ever that the Syrians were using chemical weapons, repeatedly, since December. [42]

Rebels have offered help quite publicly, with Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Mekdad, offering to collect “testimony” and physical samples. [43] The Americans might be trying get their own samples in the more clandestine manner of MI6, according to rebel commander “Majid,” from the eastern Damascus suburbs where four recent CW attacks have been reported. He told the New York Times that the CIA wanted him to collect soil samples there, but he was actually in Jordan, and said it would take a while before he could get back on his home turf to help. [43]

In Israel, numerous actors in the military and intelligence arenas made a coordinated surprise push on April 23, recorded in a detailed report by the New York Times. This included information sent to Washington,“briefings earlier on Tuesday,” where “the Israelis said they believed that the attacks March 19 involved the use of sarin gas,” and dramatics dropped on Defense Secretary Hagel during his visit. Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, Israel’s senior military intelligence analyst, said that Syria “has increasingly used chemical weapons. … without any appropriate reaction,” which “might signal that this is legitimate.” General Brun cited “different signs” of this, including photographs of people “foaming at the mouth.” An anonymous Israeli military official also told the Times’ David E. Sanger that the Israeli opinion was based “mainly on what he described as publicly available photographs of victims, but said there was also corroborating “direct evidence” that he would not detail.” [43]

Israel’s intent here was clearly to influence the US into action (or at least into greater threat of it); the unnamed official said “if somebody would take any reaction” against Syria, maybe it would deter them from using it again.” [43] And the ominous inverse is that a failure to act would all-but guarantee a repetition. American officials refused to be instantly convinced, and made a few good points in explaining why. [44] With British-French-Israeli collusion to attack a resistant Arab nation, and the U.S. holding back, President Obama almost seemed to be channeling Eisenhower in the Suez crisis. But it was apparently short-lived.

On the 25th, CNN reported, the White House and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that U.S. analysts now felt, “with varying degrees of confidence,” that Syria has used chemical weapons including at least sarin, “on a small scale.” The report noted there was still caution, especially over “chain of custody” issues, but this is the closest the Obama administration has come to saying its red line is crossed. [45]

Questioning the “Confidence”

As we hover at this dangerous juncture, questions emerge. An informative April 25 report from McClatchy news service heard from unnamed but authoritative sources that the U.S. intelligence findings for sarin “were of “low or moderate” confidence,” and that investigators “found trace amounts of a byproduct in soil, but there are also fertilizers that give out the same byproduct,” the person said. “It’s far from conclusive.” [46] This is especially so, as the chain of custody is far from certain and that the opposition forces likely involved in collection are notoriously dishonest.

The Telegraph reported on senior members of UK parliament saying better evidence will be needed to escalate, and noted that the Ministry of Defence “said it would not publish details of the tests, an indication that it did not have full confidence in what it had found, analysts said.” [47]

On the basic logic front, Max Fisher helpfully pointed out for a Washington Post blog “three important caveats” as we speak of red lines. One was on the danger of intervention Syria would face, noting “it’s hard to imagine that using a “small amount” of chemical weapons would do the regime forces enough good to merit the risk.” He also cited chemical weapons expert Ralf Trapp asking “why would the regime just put it on a grenade here or a rocket launcher there? It’s just not the way you’d expect a military force to act.” [48] The picture of does fit, however, with a false flag provocateur.

Let’s consider again those who suffer little to no such risk – unknown opposition brigades who may have been behind the last Aleppo gas attack – alongside a mid-April repeat in Aleppo’s sprawling Sheikh Maqsoud district. This time it looks better in that rebels had just conquered Sheikh Maqsoud for the first time, and were absorbing some attacks. Rebel sources blame a regime helicopter, not one of their own mortars, for dropping the unidentified gas early on the morning of April 13. The attack reportedly poisoned 16 people non-fatally, and killed two women and two young children. [49]

The CW victims “foaming at the mouth,” as cited by Israel’s General Brun [43], might refer to a horrible photo from this incident, released by the SOHR, of an apparently dead woman with mucous bubbling out of her mouth and nose. [50] Brun said that image was consistent with sarin exposure, and the Centers for Disease Control (U.S.) cites runny nose, drooling, and more as signs of low-level exposure. [51] But Mohammad Sabbagh’s stolen chlorine should have effects at least as consistent, as it did in World War I: “a profuse exudation of a thin, light yellow, albuminous fluid by the bronchial mucous membrane.” [52]It would seem some enabled party was again gassing people in Aleppo, perhaps with regime “tear gas” again, just as the threat of discovering the truth there evaporated like the morning fog.

The U.S. embrace of sarin use was apparently based on the “intelligence” Israel had sent – opinions, public images, and something secret – plus tests of unreliable samples yielding traces that could be fertilizer byproducts. This possibly fake “best guess” thrives in the climate of ignorance following the all-but fatal sabotage of the U.N. investigation. (That this unsound approach is applied to issues of war and national soverignty – at the United Nations, even – is a related problem with its own complex causes we shall not try to address here.)

Growing “confidence” is troubling; that word is the origin of the “con” part of a “con job,” where the confidence of the lie tricks the victim into giving away something unwarranted (belief, first and foremost). Perhaps this war drive is not so dissimilar from the deceit-greased build-up to war in Iraq ten years ago. Added here is the twist, perhaps a charade, of the U.S. being dragged into it reluctantly by allies. But that a mighty nation allows itself to be dragged into echoing the sarin rumors suggests, as does so much else, that they are not truly averse to this endeavor.

The moral load of any possible war against Syria will also have to include the potential disgrace of punishing the victims of real-life, deployed and used weapons of mass destruction. Much credible evidence suggests the documented chemical warfare so far has been by the rebels, against soldiers and supporters of the same government slated to be blamed. Then it’s slated to be attacked by what might well be the real criminals, enabled with air support, with the intent of total victory. To borrow Israeli general Brun’s statement, it’s not hard to see how this rewarding of terrorism “might signal that this is legitimate” and encourage more of the same – at least, so long as it suits Western interests.

Postscript

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi seems at least reasonably justified in saying, as SANA reported on April 26, “the Western sides … want now to hide behind this “fabricated and false” talk [“that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian army in other areas”] to justify their silence on failing the investigation mission requested by Syria and to exonerate the terrorists.” [53] Al-Zoubi was speaking to RT, who quoted him as saying the West’s aims include, first, “to cover those who are really behind use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal,” where many or most of the dead were government soldiers. [37]

And on that same day, there was an unconfirmed report from the Bazreh neighborhood of Damascus, that entrenched rebels gassed attacking army soldiers. Breaking News (Syria) reports medical sources for an unstated number of “martyrs, who have died due to inhalation of chemical gases,” which causes an exudation of “white substance from their noses and mouths.” [54]

References / Notes :

(ACLOS = A Closer Look on Syria, the site at which the author shares most of his research)

[1] ACLOS, Chemical Weapons http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Category:Chemical_Weapons

[2] ACLOS, Alleged chemical attack, March 19 – Organized but incomplete main page:http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013

Detailed but sloppy talk page : http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013

[3] Swedish scientist to head U.N. Syria chemical weapons probe Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:00pm EDT

[4] Local Coordination Committees of Syria, Daily summary for March 19 : http://www.lccsyria.org/11106 This has two possible chemical attacks noted, Otaybah (Ateibah) and Homs, and a scud impact in Anadan just 13 km north of Khan Al-Assal, but nothin in Khan Al-Assal, and no chemical anything for the Aleppo area. On Homs : “Several cases of asphyxia were reported in Baba Amr due to releasing toxic gases by the regime’s forces on the neighborhood.” See also ACLOS: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013#March_19_Homs_attack

[5]ACLOS, Dec. 23 attack: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Alleged_Chemical_Attack,_December_23,_2012

[6]U.S.: Syria didn’t use chemical weapons in Homs incident. By Elise Labott, CNN Security Clearance, January 16, 2013http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/16/u-s-syria-didnt-use-chemical-weapons-in-homs-incident/

[7] Two related AlexThomson reports : In the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9950036/Syria-chemical-weapons-finger-pointed-at-jihadists.html Channel 4 Blog: http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/searching-truth-debris/4444

[8] ACLOS, SOHR reports: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013#SOHR

[9] 25 Killed by Rocket with Chemical Materials Fired by Terrorists in Aleppo Countryside Mar 19, 2013

http://sana.sy/eng/337/2013/03/19/473349.htm

[10] ACLOS, timing of March 19 attack: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013#Timing

[11] ACLOS, the alleged agent(s): http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013#The_Alleged_Agent.28s.29

[12] https://twitter.com/SyrianSupport/status/314747340785319937/photo/1/large

[13] Chemical confusion: has Syria’s civil war crossed the ‘red line’? By Amar Toor, The Verge, March 25, 2013 12:15 pm http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/25/4144916/syria-accused-of-using-chemical-weapons-in-civil-war

[14] Official: ‘Something went down’ in Syria, but it was short of chemical weapons. By Barbara Starr, Chelsea J. Carter and Amir Ahmed, CNN. March 22, 2013 — Updated 0527 GMT (original title: Officials: Preliminary results show chemical weapons not used in Syria) http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/21/world/meast/syria-civil-war/?hpt=hp_t1

[15] Alleged chemical attack kills 25 in northern Syria. By Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon, Reuters, March 19, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/19/us-syria-crisis-chemical-idUSBRE92I0A220130319

[16] ACLOS, rockets : http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013#Propulsion:_Rebel_Rockets

[17] ACLOS, chlorine: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_chemical_attack,_March_19,_2013#Chlorine

[18] Syria’s Civil War: The Mystery Behind a Deadly Chemical Attack By Aryn Baker, Time, April 1, 2013

http://world.time.com/2013/04/01/syrias-civil-war-the-mystery-behind-a-deadly-chemical-attack/?iid=gs-main-lead

[19] Syria regime, rebels trade chemical weapons accusations Agence Frace-Presse, via Global Post, March 20, 2013, 00:00. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130320/syria-regime-rebels-trade-chemical-weapons-accusations See also: Al-Akhbar English: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/accusations-swirl-over-syrian-chemical-attack

[20] Moscow alarmed by use of chemical weapons by Syrian armed opposition The Voice of Russia, March 19, 2013 19 March, 19:15 http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_19/Moscow-alarmed-by-use-of-chemical-weapons-by-Syrian-armed-opposition/

[21]West stalls Syria chemical attack probe in U.N.: Russia Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, via Chicago Tribune, 6:56 p.m. CDT, March 20, 2013 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-chemical-unbre92j0re-20130320,0,6271830.story

[22] Various articles from Press TV highlight efforts to get various leaders and powers to condemn the rebel attack. For example: Kazakhstan: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/03/31/295955/iran-urges-kazakhstan-to-slam-cw-use/ Armenia: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/04/01/296010/iran-urges-armenia-to-slam-cw-attack/ The OIC chief and even Ban Ki Moon are reported as doing so, but really just condemned the attack, apart from attacker. http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/04/15/298381/oic-condemns-chemical-attack-in-syria/(Moon article hard to re-locate – were they ordered to retract it?)

[23] U.N. launches probe of possible Syrian chemical arms attack. By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, March 21, 2013, 6:56pm EDT http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/21/us-syria-crisis-chemical-un-idUSBRE92K0OY20130321

[24] Russia, China must be part of Syria chemical arms inquiry: Moscow. Reuters, Reporting by Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Alistair Lyon. Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:45am EDT http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/25/us-syria-crisis-russia-idUSBRE92O08A20130325

[25] West wants to use Syria chemical weapons charge for regime change, says Russia. Steve Gutterman, The Independent (Ireland), 25 MARCH 2013 http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/west-wants-to-use-syria-chemical-weapons-charge-for-regime-change-says-russia-29152774.html

[26] No agreement on Syria access for UN chemical arms inspectors By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, April 4, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/04/syria-crisis-chemical-idUSL2N0CR1KS20130404

[27] U.N. talks with Syria on chemical arms probe at impasse By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, UNITED NATIONS, Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:20am EDT http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/11/us-syria-crisis-chemical-un-idUSBRE93919B20130411

[28] UN yet to reach chemical inquiry accord with Syria: envoys Agence France-Presse via Global Post, March 27, 2013 15:47 http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130327/un-yet-reach-chemical-inquiry-accord-syria-envoys

[29] West has ‘hard evidence’ of Syria chemical weapons use Reuters and Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2013http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/West-has-hard-evidence-of-Syria-chemical-weapons-use-309614

[30] Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the UN Investigation into Chemical Weapons Use in Syria U.S. Mission to the United Nations, New York, NY, March 21, 2013 http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/206494.htm

[31] Syria Blocks UN Chemical Weapons Mission By Margaret Besheer, Voice of America, April 08, 2013http://www.voanews.com/content/syria-blocks-un-chemical-weapons-team/1637442.html

[32] All Syria chemical arms claims must be probed: U.N.’s Ban. By Anthony Deutsch, Reuters, The Hague, Mon Apr 8, 2013 8:39am EDT http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/08/us-syria-crisis-un-ban-idUSBRE93709620130408

[33] UN excludes major powers from Syria chemical arms inquiry. AFP via Global Post, March 26, 2013

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130326/un-excludes-major-powers-syria-chemical-arms-inquiry

[34] Ahmet Üzümcü. Wikipedia, last modified on 21 March 2013 at 16:11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmet_Üzümcü

[35] U.N. to Probe Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria. By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press (via Time), March 21, 2013. http://world.time.com/2013/03/21/un-to-probe-alleged-chemical-weapons-use-in-syria/

[36] April 6 complaints: Russia Condemns UN Probe Into Alleged Chemical Weapons Used In Syria By Megan Davies and Steve Gutterman, Reuters (via Huffington Post) April 6, 2013http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/06/russia-slams-expansion-of_n_3029263.html See also:http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c32/698669.html – http://sana.sy/eng/22/2013/04/06/476141.htm

[37]Chemical inspection stalled: UN team can’t be trusted ‘politically’ without Russian experts – Syrian information minister Aril 27, 2013. http://rt.com/news/syria-chemical-iraq-scenario-483/

[38] Syria rejects ‘broadening’ of UN chemical weapons probe Asianet via Global Post, April 10, 2013 15:43http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130410/syria-rejects-broadening-un-chemical-weapons-probe

[39] Syria Blames West For Chemical Weapons Attacks As UN Investigates From Afar. Talk Radio News Service, April 26, 2013. http://www.talkradionews.com/united-nations/2013/04/26/chemical-weapons-syria-denies-un.html#.UXuPHkarU98

[40] Aleppo attack likely tear gas and not nerve agent, analysts say. By Times of Israel Staff and AP. Times of Israel, March 24, 2013 http://www.timesofisrael.com/aleppo-attack-likely-tear-gas-and-not-nerve-agent-analysts-say/

[41] ‘Soil sample proves chemical weapons used in Syria’ Times of Israel Staff and AP, April 13, 2013http://www.timesofisrael.com/soil-sample-proves-chemical-weapons-used-in-syria/

[42] April 19 letter http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/world/middleeast/Syria.html?_r=0

[43] Israel Says It Has Proof That Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons. By David E. Sanger and Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, April 23, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/world/middleeast/israel-says-syria-has-used-chemical-weapons.html?_r=0

[44] Analysis: Crossing Obama’s “red line” on Syria will require concrete proof By Matt Spetalnick and David Alexander, Reuters, Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:27am EDT http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/24/us-syria-crisis-usa-sarin-idUSBRE93N01W20130424

[45] U.S.: Intelligence points to small-scale use of sarin in Syria. By Michael Pearson, CNN

April 26, 2013 http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/25/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

[46] U.S. believes Syria may have used chemical weapons; experts offer caution. By Jonathan S. Landay, Matthew Schofield and Anita Kumar, McClatchy Newspapers, April 25, 2013. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/04/25/189653/syria-used-chemical-weapons-white.html

[47] Syria chemical weapons: MPs demand evidence of sarin use by Assad. By James Kirkup and Richard Spencer, the Telegraph, April 28, 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10024199/Syria-chemical-weapons-MPs-demand-evidence-of-sarin-use-by-Assad.html

[48] Three important caveats on the Syria chemical weapons report. Posted by Max Fisher Washington Post World Views April 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/04/25/three-important-caveats-on-the-syria-chemical-weapons-report/

[49] ACLOS : April 13 attack : http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Alleged_Chemical_Attack,_April_13,_2013

[50] SOHR photo album (warning : the dead children are also shown) https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.358827080892303.1073741828.121855461256134&type=1

[51] sarin : http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp

[52] chlorine : http://www.vlib.us/medical/gaswar/chlorine.htm

[53] Information Minister: Western Sides Are Directly Responsible for Chemical Weapons Use in Khan al-Assal. Syrian Arab News Agency, April 26, 2013. http://sana.sy/eng/22/2013/04/26/479394.htm

[54] The effects of “Free Army” using to chemical weapon in Barzeh. Breaking News, April 28, 2013.http://breakingnews.sy/en/article/16423.html

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Soldiers Invade Kufur Qaddoum, Clash With Local Youths

NOVANEWS
by Saed Bannoura

 

Friday, May 3 2013, Israeli soldiers, supported by an armored military bulldozer and armored vehicles, invaded the village of Kufur Qaddoum, near the northern West Bank city of Qilqilia, after violently dispersing the weekly protest, and clashed with dozens of local youth; several injuries have been reported.

bulldozerqaddoum.jpg

Villagers hold weekly protests against the ongoing closure of the main road of the village, blocking its main entrance since many years, and against the ongoing construction of the Annexation Wall and settlements on lands that belong to the residents.

Local sources reported that the army attacked the village from different directions, and fired dozens of gas bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets at local youths who hurled stones at the invading army, and sprayed them with waste-water mixed with chemicals.

Medical sources in the village have reported that dozens of residents have been treated for the effects of teargas inhalation, while one reporter, identified as Aref Tuffaha, was injured in the head after being hit by a gas bomb fired by the army.

Morad Eshtewy, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Kufur Qaddoum reported that the army, supported by armored military bulldozers, invaded several neighborhoods in the village, and fired dozens of gas bombs at local youths who hurled stones at the invading forces.

Eshtwey added that that this protest, and all protests that will be held in May, will be conducted in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, marking the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and added that the protests resemble the Palestinian determination to achieve liberation, independence, and the internationally-guaranteed Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees.

Also on Friday, soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protests against the Annexation Wall and settlements, in the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

The protests marked the World Press Freedom Day; residents and international and Israeli human rights activists managed to reach the Israeli wall built on lands taken from local villagers.

As protestors arrived to the gate of the wall, Israeli soldiers fired dozens of tear-gas canisters at them.

Several youth responded by throwing rocks at the soldiers. A number of residents were also treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation due to the army attack.

In the nearby village of Nabi Saleh Israeli troops also used tear gas and chemical water, to stop the protestors.

Several residents and international supporters were sprayed by chemical water that leaves bad smell on the victim’s body for a long time, in addition to skin irritations.

Israeli soldiers also fired tear gas inside residents’ homes causing several women and children to choke and suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation.

Furthermore, the army fired dozens of rubber-coated metal bullets and gas bombs at nonviolent protestors in the Al-Ma’sara village, near Bethlehem.

Several residents were treated for the effects of gas inhalation by field medics.

Troops forced people back into the village using rifle-buts and batons; some protestors suffered bruises in the arms and the back.

qaddoum1.jpg

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Zionist Gingrich Calls For Federal Ban On Shariah Law In US

NOVANEWS
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

The second morning of speeches at the Values Voter Summit here in DC was dominated by a man who is swiftly becoming the nation’s spokesperson for Islamophobia — former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Fresh off the release of his Islam-focused film “America At Risk,” Gingrich told the crowd at VVS that it’s time to take federal action to prevent Shariah Law from infiltrating courtrooms in the US.

“We should have a federal law that says sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States,” Gingrich said to a standing ovation from the audience. The law will let judges know, Gingrich said, that “no judge will remain in office that tried to use sharia law.”

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Morals, Morals, Morals! Conservatives Gather For Values Voter Summit]

Gingrich made a not-so-subtle reference to the right wing meme about freshly-minted Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan which claims that Kagan is “sympathetic” to Shariah and — as some suggested during her confirmation hearings — might allow it to be recognized as law in the United States.

But beyond the Kagan hit, Gingrich’s anti-Shariah talk inserted him directly into the most extreme end of the Islamophobic push-back against mosque projects all over the country.

Opponents of Islamic building projects in New York City, Tennessee and Temecula, Californiaand Florence, Kentucky have often raised fears that the goal of Muslims seeking to build new houses of worship is to slowly make America comfortable with Shariah before using political power to allow it to become the law of the land.

Fear of sharia law’s encroachment was at the center of the whole “Burn The Koran Day” brouhaha, too. And that — according to David Petraeus, among others — put U.S. troops at risk in the Middle East. Pastor Terry Jones, the would-be book burner in Gainesville, Florida, said torching Korans was supposed to send a message about American distaste for Shariah.

Gingrich, who’s been looking more and more extremist lately, now has made himself into the latest voice of paranoia crying that the Muslims are coming to take over us all.

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Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

NOVANEWS

A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on CNN that this is the case

guardian.co.uk,

CNN Clemente

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente, on CNN, discussing government’s surveillance capabilities Photograph: CNN screegrab

The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.

Over the past couple days, cable news tabloid shows such as CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett have been excitingly focused on the possible involvement in the Boston Marathon attack of Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As part of their relentless stream of leaks uncritically disseminated by our Adversarial Press Corps, anonymous government officials are claimingthat they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way.

On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

“All of that stuff” – meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant – “is being captured as we speak”.

On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored:

Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure”, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.

There have been some previous indications that this is true. FormerAT&T engineer Mark Klein revealed that AT&T and other telecoms had built a special network that allowed the National Security Agency full and unfettered access to data about the telephone calls and the content of email communications for all of their customers. Specifically, Klein explained “that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” and that “contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists . . . much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.” But his amazing revelations were mostly ignored and, when Congress retroactively immunized the nation’s telecom giants for their participation in the illegal Bush spying programs, Klein’s claims (by design) were prevented from being adjudicated in court.

That every single telephone call is recorded and stored would also explain this extraordinary revelation by the Washington Post in 2010:

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.

It would also help explain the revelations of former NSA official William Binney, who resigned from the agency in protest over its systemic spying on the domestic communications of US citizens, that the US government has “assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens” (which counts only communications transactions and not financial and other transactions), and that “the data that’s being assembled is about everybody. And from that data, then they can target anyone they want.”

Despite the extreme secrecy behind which these surveillance programs operate, there have been periodic reports of serious abuse. Two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have been warning for years that Americans would be “stunned” to learn what the US government is doing in terms of secret surveillance.

tia logo

Strangely, back in 2002 – when hysteria over the 9/11 attacks (and thus acquiescence to government power) was at its peak – the Pentagon’s attempt to implement what it called the “Total Information Awareness” program (TIA)sparked so much public controversy that it had to be official scrapped. But it has been incrementally re-instituted – without the creepy (though honest) name and all-seeing-eye logo – with little controversy or even notice.

Back in 2010, worldwide controversy erupted when the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates banned the use of Blackberries because some communications were inaccessible to government intelligence agencies, and that could not be tolerated. The Obama administration condemned this move on the ground that it threatened core freedoms, only to turn around six weeks later anddemand that all forms of digital communications allow the US government backdoor access to intercept them. Put another way, the US government embraced exactly the same rationale invoked by the UAE and Saudi agencies: that no communications can be off limits. Indeed, the UAE, when responding to condemnations from the Obama administration, noted that it was simply doing exactly that which the US government does:

“‘In fact, the UAE is exercising its sovereign right and is asking for exactly the same regulatory compliance – and with the same principles of judicial and regulatory oversight – that Blackberry grants the US and other governments and nothing more,’ [UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al] Otaiba said. ‘Importantly, the UAE requires the same compliance as the US for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement.'”

That no human communications can be allowed to take place without the scrutinizing eye of the US government is indeed the animating principle of the US Surveillance State. Still, this revelation, made in passing on CNN, that every single telephone call made by and among Americans is recorded and stored is something which most people undoubtedly do not know, even if the small group of people who focus on surveillance issues believed it to be true (clearly, both Burnett and Costello were shocked to hear this).

Some new polling suggests that Americans, even after the Boston attack, are growing increasingly concerned about erosions of civil liberties in the name of Terrorism. Even those people who claim it does not matter instinctively understand the value of personal privacy: they put locks on their bedroom doors and vigilantly safeguard their email passwords. That’s why the US government so desperately maintains a wall of secrecy around their surveillance capabilities: because they fear that people will find their behavior unacceptably intrusive and threatening, as they did even back in 2002 when John Poindexter’s TIA was unveiled.

Mass surveillance is the hallmark of a tyrannical political culture. But whatever one’s views on that, the more that is known about what the US government and its surveillance agencies are doing, the better. This admission by this former FBI agent on CNN gives a very good sense for just how limitless these activities are.

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America’s shameful history in Vietnam finally revealed

NOVANEWS

For weeks Nick Turse’s new book has been rattling around in my head.Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam is not just another history book. Its implications for today are both profound and unnerving. It will haunt you every time the United States launches yet another military adventure somewhere in the world in the name of American idealism.

How to convey 260 meticulously documented, explosive pages of horror stories? On every page there’s a new one, barely believable, that demands to be shared. Maybe you begin with My Lai, the scandal we still all know about, the one that has borne the burden as America’s shameful bad apple in Vietnam. Until now.

In March 1968, briefing the infantrymen of Charlie Company on their next operation in the Vietnamese countryside, Captain Ernest Medina instructs them “to kill everything that breathed.” When a solder asks, “Are we supposed to kill women and children?” Medina replies, in the commandment that encapsulates the entire American strategy for Vietnam, “Kill everything that moves.”

American soldiers are trained to obey. For four hours, the entire company proceeds to “methodically slaughter more than 500 unarmed victims,” all women, children and old men. “Along the way, they also rape women and young girls, mutilate the dead, systematically burn homes, and foul the area’s drinking water.” It sounds like one of those barbaric stories out of the Congo. The infantrymen, Turse learns, “even took a quiet break to eat lunch in the midst of that carnage.” I’m not sure they do that in Congo.

The massacre was witnessed by scores of men on the ground and in the air, including officers. In the end, a man named Calley, a company lieutenant, was the only person ever convicted of any wrongdoing. He was paroled after serving 40 months in his own quarters.

My Lai was no aberration. It was how the American brass military chose to conduct their war against Vietnam. It was just another American operation, as the archives Turse burrowed in and the eyewitnesses he tracked down all confirmed. He found a letter from a vet to President Richard Nixon, warning him that “the atrocities committed in My Lai are eclipsed by similar American actions throughout the country.” It has taken until now for the world to learn that truth.

At least 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians were killed, mostly in American air raids. South Vietnamese civilian deaths might have reached two million, wounded civilians five million; the country’s population had been 19 million. About a third of the wounded were women. A quarter were children under 13. Between 30-60,000 South Vietnamese were left blind, up to 150,000 more were amputees.

Forget about those convenient “bad apples.” These deaths and casualties were, Turse demonstrates, “the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest level of the military.” Whether on the ground or through “the everyday exercise of the American way of war from the air,” the killing of civilians was “widespread, routine and directly attributable to U.S. command policies.”

What comes as sadly predictable in Turse’s account is the explicit dehumanizing racism that was ubiquitous throughout the American forces and encouraged at every level. “The drill instructors never ever called the Vietnamese ‘Vietnamese’,” one vet remembered. “They called them dinks, gooks, slopes, slants, rice-eaters, everything that would take away their humanity…That they were less than human was clearly the message.”

“They were like animals,” another said. “They wouldn’t allow you to talk about them as if they were people. They told us that they’re not to be treated with mercy.” So obediently, and often enthusiastically, American soldiers killed or violated anything that moved, no questions asked.

Never mind mere terrorism. This is the direct route to genocide. Indeed, when a third of a small nation is left dead or maimed, what need is there for genocide?

Then add to this picture the systematic use in unprecedented quantities of Agent Orange, sprayed on nearly five million Vietnamese, their land, animals and vegetation. The consequences, short- and long-term, beggar description. Yet this too was no anomaly but the calculated use of chemical weapons as approved by the very highest political and military officials in the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations, some of the most eminent of them still active today. Yet using chemicals against civilian populations was the precise genocidal crime for which Saddam Hussein was to be tried had he lived, and the same crime if used by the Syrian government that will be a “game changer” for the Americans in that crisis, as Mr. Obama regularly informs us.

If My Lai was not an aberration in Vietnam, can we fail to ask whether Vietnam was an aberration among America’s never-ending wars? In fact, we already some answers. An independent U.S. commission has just confirmed that ever since 9/11, in Guatanamo, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in the CIA’s many secret “black sites” for detaining prisoners around the world, Americans indisputably “engaged in the practice of torture” as sanctioned by the Bush administration. It’s extremely disturbing, not least for America’s friends and allies.

Why does all this matter so profoundly? It’s not that Americans are more brutal than other soldiers; that’s a contest with no winner. It’s that America fights so many more wars than anyone else, often with our blessing.

Posted in USAComments Off on America’s shameful history in Vietnam finally revealed

Obama on Airstrikes: IsraHell Has to Guard Against Hezbollah

NOVANEWS
By REUTERS

SAN JOSE (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday that Israel has the right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah a day after Israel attacked a Hezbollah-bound missile shipment in Syria.

Israel has long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons from reaching Hezbollah or jihadi rebels. Israeli warplanes went after the shipment inside Syria, where a two-year civil war is raging.

Obama, in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo as part of a three-day Latin America tour that ended in Costa Rica, would not comment on whether the airstrikes had in fact taken place.

“I’ll let the Israeli government confirm or deny whatever strikes that they’ve taken,” he said.

But Obama, who visited Israel in March, made clear such strikes would be justified.

“What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon,” he said.

Obama’s government is seeking to determine whether Syria used chemical weapons against its own people to quash a rebellion.

He said on Friday he does not envision sending U.S. troops to Syria regardless of whether chemical weapons use is determined but he has a number of other options under review.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Obama on Airstrikes: IsraHell Has to Guard Against Hezbollah

Wake Up America Broadcast: Boycott IsraHell

Wake Up America Broadcast May 3, 2013

by Sammi Ibrahem Sr

 

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Trust In The British Establishment Has Been Destroyed

NOVANEWS

According to a new survey of British citizens, public trust in the establishment has declined as politicians, banks and the media all receive less than 10% of the vote.

 

by Mick Meaney

The poll conducted by OMD UK asked 2,000 adults their opinion on varies aspects of British society as part of a year-long research project.  OMD discovered that only 3% of people trust politicians, while 6% trust the media and 7% trust the bank.

Is it any surprise that trust continues to decline as more people are beginning to wake up to the fact that our society is controlled by
criminal psychopaths who only care about their own wealth, power and preservation.

In light of a myriad of scandals including MP’s expenses, the media silence of high-profile pedophiles and the crimes of the banking elite, it’s finally become clear to the majority of citizens that elements of our establishment will stop at nothing to hide their misdeeds.

The poll also found that 75% of people blame the criminal bankers for the economic crash, however it’s a shame that 25% have not yet realized the truth, while 39% blame Gordon Brown and 27% blame David Cameron.

The report also revealed the hardship of British families with 40% having to sell possessions in order to survive. When asked for a solution to the economic crisis, 53% said that taxing the rich more would revive the economy.

Only 26% of people trust the police, 17% trust religious institutions and 10% trust local authorities. When it comes to technology, Facebook is the least trusted corporation with just 9% of the vote while Google received 17%. In all, these figures reflect the fact that public trust in the British establishment has been destroyed as we head towards a momentous turning point in our history and reject the illusion of power that our leaders would-have-us-believe they hold.

Posted in UKComments Off on Trust In The British Establishment Has Been Destroyed

Secret US Court Approved Every Single Domestic Spying Request in 2012

NOVANEWS

The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court quietly rubber stamped nearly 2,000 government requests to search or electronically monitor people in the United States last year, according to a Justice Department report published this week.

RT

The agency, which oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents on US soil, released the report to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), showing that by approving the 1,856 inquiries “for foreign intelligence purposes,” it had granted every single government request in 2012. The FISC’s approval rating actually jumped by five per cent from 2011 – when it also approved every application.

The FISC was instituted as part of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978, expanded under the George W. Bush administration, and then reauthorized by Congress for another five years in December of 2012.
The act, commonly referred to act the “warrantless wiretapping” law, authorizes the government to monitor US citizens’ phone calls and emails without first proving probable cause as long as they’re believed to be corresponding with an individual overseas.

The 1,856 applications include applications made solely for electronic surveillance, applications made solely for physical search, and combined applications requesting authority for electronic surveillance and physical search,” the report read. “Of these, 1,789 applications included requests for authority to conduct electronic surveillance.”

David Kris, a former top anti-terrorism attorney at the Justice Department, wrote in the 2012 edition of National Security Investigations and Prosecutions that the FISA Amendments Act also gives the government domestic spying power while stripping away accountability.

For example, an authorization targeting Al-Qaeda – which is a non-US person located abroad – could allow the government to wiretap any telephone that it believes will yield information from or about Al-Qaeda, either because the telephone is registered to a person whom the government believes is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, or because the government believes that the person communicates with others who are affiliated with Al-Qaeda, regardless of the location of the telephone,” Kris wrote, as quoted by Wired.

In February of this year the American Civil Liberties Union tried to sue the government in a bid to nullify the law. However, the Supreme Court ruled that, because the court proceedings are kept secret and the American Civil Liberties Union has no way to know if it’s been targeted by the FISA Act, they had no legal standing to sue.

When the powers under the law were extended last year, the Senate refused to include any amendments that would have prohibited the CIA from reviewing information taken from government surveillance, one of which was proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

The amendment I fought to include would have helped bring the Constitutional principles of security and liberty back into balance and I intend to work with my colleagues to see that the liberties of individual Americans are maintained,” Wyden said after the vote.

Posted in USAComments Off on Secret US Court Approved Every Single Domestic Spying Request in 2012

Former Bush Official Says Syria Chemical Weapons Could be “False Flag Operation” (Video)

NOVANEWS

On a recent TV interview a former government official under George W. Bush suggested that the hype surrounding chemical weapons in Syria could be part of an “Israeli false flag operation.”

By JG Vibes

On Thursday Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell under President George W. Bush warned current TV’s Cenk Uygur about the potential of false flag operations in Syria.

Raw Story reported that: Wilkerson explained that he had been told by his sources in the intelligence community that evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons was “really flaky” and that President Barack Obama should think twice before intervening.

“This could have been an Israeli false flag operation,” he said. “You’ve got basically a geo-strategically, geo-political — if you will — inept regime in Tel Aviv right now.”

Wilkerson pointed to the fact that Obama had to tell Netanyahu to “pick up the phone, you idiot,” and call Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for a Israeli raid that killed killed eight Turkish civilians aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010.

“Look at Israel’s situation right now, it’s as dangerous as it’s been since 1948,” Wilkerson remarked. “You’ve got Lebanon growing increasingly unstable with [Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan] Nasrallah and Hezbollah having more and more political power. You’ve got Syria involved in a brutal civil war. You’ve got Iraq in Iran’s back pocket with [Iraq Prime Minister] Nuri al-Maliki, the Sunnis realizing that and restating the civil war. You’ve got Saudi Arabia funding the Sunnis in Iraq. You’ve got Jordan, whose king has publicly said he wished he weren’t the king. You’ve got Egypt in an untenable position, no longer the security that Israel needed on that flank.”

“So Israel is in a very, very dangerous situation right now. The president has got to be very circumspect about what he does in exacerbating that situation. Netanyahu is clueless as to this. I hope that President Obama gave him a lecture into geo-strategic realities.”

The very popular false flag approach is a part of the political strategy called The Hegelian Dialectic. This is a strategy where the government creates a problem, waits for the expected reaction from the public and then offers them a preplanned solution to the problem that they created.

This is by far one of the most effective strategies that democratic governments use to scare their populations into war. This approach is becoming increasingly prevalent in US policy as the establishment works to strip away more of our natural rights so they can expand their empire.

As we reported earlier this month following the recent Boston bombings, the official story has been so sketchy that more and more people are starting to learn about false flag attacks. According to Google trends, the web has never seen this level of interest in the term “false flag”.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Former Bush Official Says Syria Chemical Weapons Could be “False Flag Operation” (Video)

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