Archive | March 3rd, 2015

VIDEO: Answers Demanded Following Fatal Shooting of Homeless Man By LAPD

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Caught on tape by bystander, a graphic video shows several officers failing to subdue homeless man before opening fire.

LAPD


The fatal shooting of a homeless man by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Sunday that was caught on video is spurring outrage in California and around the country with criticism focused on why deadly force was necessary given the number of officers on the scene and reports which indicate the man, who witnesses said suffered from mental illness, did not have a weapon, at least when the altercation began.

The graphic video—posted to Facebook and viewed several million times overnight—comes as just the latest example of a police shooting caught on camera and is sure to add to the national outrage surrounding excessive force used by law enforcement.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

…. LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said there could be more video recordings of the incident, noting that he could see two surveillance cameras mounted on buildings at the scene.

The encounter was recorded by body cameras worn by at least one of the officers. It was unclear what that recording shows.

“It’s clear there was a struggle for the officer’s gun,” Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. No other gun was found at the scene.

Five shots can be heard on the video. Two officers and a sergeant fired their weapons, Smith said.

In addition to what can be seen on the video, firsthand witnesses to the shooting confirmed the man was acting violently and combatively but suggested he was not such a threat he deserved to be shot dead.

According to Yolanda Young, who spoke to local media, the man “was down but then he jumped up, like he was juiced up, and then he started swinging at the police and they were fighting him back,” before he was tackled to the ground.

“He didn’t have no weapon, they just shot him,” she continued. “They could have just wrestled him down and took him to jail, but they shot him five times.”

According to local CBS-affiliate KTLA, a man in the video, apparently an officer, is heard yelling during the scuffle: “Drop the gun. Drop the gun. He has a gun.” Police can then be seen opening fire.

And the Times adds:

An angry crowd gathered immediately after the gunfire, as police cordoned off the scene and ordered onlookers to back away.

One witness can be heard complaining that there had been at least six officers to handle the situation, and that the mortally wounded man had been unarmed.

“Ain’t nobody got no … gun!” he shouts.

“That man never was a threat,” said Lonnie Franklin, 53, who said he was across the street when the shooting occurred. “The amount of officers present at the time could have subdued him.”

Witnesses identified the dead man by his street name, “Africa,” and said he’d been living in a tent on skid row for a few months after spending a long stretch in a mental health facility.

The Times reports that civil rights advocates are demanding further answers from the LAPD and called for an immediate and impartial investigation into the shooting.

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Lawmakers Asked Boehner To Postpone Netanyahu Speech — But Who Is Still Going?

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Almost two dozen House Democrats signed a letter asking Speaker Boehner to postpone Prime Minister Netanyahu’s upcoming address to a joint session of Congress. With such a postponement unlikely, MintPress investigates who’s sticking to their guns.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with U.S. Senator John McCain during a meeting with the Israeli and U.S. delegations at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

WASHINGTON — On Feb. 18, Speaker of the House John Boehner was asked by 23 Democratic members of Congress to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on March 3.

The letter, written and circulated by Reps. Keith Ellison (Minn.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Steve Cohen (Tenn.), accuses Boehner (R-Ohio) of using Netanyahu as “a political tool against the President.”

“The timing of this invitation and lack of coordination with the White House indicate that this is not an ordinary diplomatic visit. Rather this appears to be an attempt to promote new sanctions legislation against Iran that could undermine critical negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran,” the letter reads.

Further, the foreign head of state was not invited by President Obama and he accepted the invitation without going through White House channels, marking a major departure from established protocol. This alone has been a major contributing factor to the speech being seen as a partisan flashpoint, yet controversy has also swelled around the speech coming just two weeks before Israeli elections and in the midst of a deadline on U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations.

With a growing number of Democratic lawmakers saying they will skip the speech, MintPress News decided to see which of the 23 lawmakers who signed the letter to Boehner plan to attend — or skip — the speech now that it’s apparent that a postponement isn’t in the cards.

GOING:

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ) — As of press time, Coleman’s office had not returned MintPress’ request to confirm the congresswoman’s attendance, but The Hill is reporting that she will be attending.

Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) — Welch told Vermont Public Radio on Feb. 6 that his “preference” would be for the address to be postponed until after the Israeli elections and the Iran nuclear talks deadline. He confirmed that he will attend Tuesday’s speech, saying: “I believe, on behalf of Vermont, my responsibility is to show respect for foreign leaders who come to Congress.”

NOT GOING:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) — In a Jan. 29 piece for The Huffington Post, Blumenauer described the timing of Netanyahu’s address to Congress and the Israeli election as setting “dangerous and reckless precedent.” He asserted that he would not be part of “a reckless act of political grandstanding.”

Rep. André Carson (Ind.) — As of press time, Carson’s office had not returned MintPress’ request to confirm whether the congressman would be attending, but both CNN and The Hill are reporting that he will not be.

Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) — “After deliberation, I have decided I cannot in good conscience attend the Prime Minister’s speech,” Cohen said in a statement released Tuesday. “I have attended the Prime Minister’s previous speech and my support of Israel has not wavered but I believe that this speech at this time and brought forth in this manner is dangerous to Israel as well as inappropriate.”

Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.) — Davis’ office confirmed to MintPress on Friday that the congressman will not attend.

Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) — Ellison’s office confirmed to MintPress on Friday that the congressman will not be attending. “At the end of the day, the timing is all wrong. There are two problems, the US congress is being inserted in an Israeli election and that he is speaking when we’re having a domestic policy debate regarding Iranian sanctions,” Ellison told the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this month. “I’ve criticized President Bush as much as anyone, but I always understood he was the president of the United States … This is a very disrespectful thing to do to the office of the presidency.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) — DeFazio’s office confirmed to MintPress on Friday that the congressman does not plan to attend.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.) — A spokesman for the Congressman told the Chicago Sun-Times in early February that Gutiérrez has a “consistent, strong record on Israel” but the speech is “more of a stunt.” He continued, “Republicans are playing politics with Israel for domestic consumption here and in the upcoming vote in Israel and the Congressman decided he would rather not participate.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) — Johnson’s office told MintPress on Friday that the congresswoman “has no plans to attend the speech at this time.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) — Lee’s office told MintPress News on Friday: “If the speech is not postponed, she will not be attending.”

Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.) — McCollum penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday, explaining why she won’t be attending Netanyahu’s address before Congress, which she describes as a “campaign rally.”

Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) — “I do not intend to attend the speech of Bibi,” McDermott said in an email to SeattlePI.com in early February. “The whole event is to shore up Bibi’s political campaign. It also may reflect an attempt to gum up the negotiations with Iran. Side benefit is to make the president look weak.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) — “I think the timing and the circumstances of this speech are deeply troubling,” McGovern said in an interview with Radio Boston on Thursday.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) — “The relationship between the United States and Israel is too important to politicize,” O’Rourke said in a statement, as reported by the El Paso Times on Wednesday. The congressmen added that the way in which the address was organized has done “a deep disservice to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.) — “We know what he is going to say,” Yarmuth said in a Feb. 12 statement in which he expanded on some of “the many reasons” he won’t be attending.

STILL UNDECIDED:

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks in Detroit, Monday, July 7, 2014.

Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) — Conyers’ office told MintPress on Friday that Conyers, dean of the House and a ranking member of the Judiciary, had not decided whether to attend.

Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.) — Johnson said he’s hoping the speech is postponed, according to The Hill.

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (N.J.) — Payne’s office told MintPress on Friday that the congressman had not decided whether to attend.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine) —  Pingree’s office told MintPress on Friday that the congresswoman had not decided whether to attend.

Rep. Mark Pocan (Wisc.) — Pocan’s office told MintPress on Friday that the congressman had not decided whether to attend.

Rep. Mark Takano (Calif.) — As of press time, MintPress could not verify whether Takano plans to attend. Calls to his office were unreturned.

Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) — A member of Waters’ office told MintPress on Friday that the congresswoman would be pleased to attend a speech delivered by the prime minister of Israel — “whomever he or she may be” — after the elections, but could not confirm whether Waters would be attending Tuesday’s address.

 

Read Rep. Keith Ellison’s letter to Congress

Qtnngress of flit 3~Initc1~ ~tatcs IlUnaijinginu, 33QL ?0515 February l8th, 2015
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of House of Representatives
H-232 Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
We write to urge you to postpone your invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in March. Israel is a valued ally and Israeli Prime Ministers have a long history of addressing Congress. As members of Congress who support Israel, we share concern that it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the President. We very much appreciate that Prime Minister Netanyahu has twice had the honor of speaking before ajoint session.
However, at this time your invitation is contrary to the standards by which our Congress operates and has the potential to harm U.S. Foreign policy.
The timing ofthis invitation and lack of coordination with the White House indicate that this is not an ordinary diplomatic visit. Rather this appears to be an attempt to promote new sanctions legislation against Iran that could undermine critical negotiations between the P~+i and Iran. At the State of the Union President Obama made it clear that he will veto new Iran sanctions legislation. The invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu enlists a foreign leader to influence a Presidential policy initiative. We should be able to disagree on foreign policy within our American political system and without undermining the presidency.
Aside from being improper, this places Israel, a close and valued ally, in the middle of a policy debate between Congress and the White House. We should not turn our diplomatic friendship into a partisan issue. Beyond threatening our diplomatic priorities, the timing of this invitation offers the Congressional platform to elevate a candidate in a foreign election.
A visit from Israel’s Prime Minister would normally be an occasion for bipartisan cooperation and support. Our relationship with Israel is too important to use as a pawn PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPERin political gamesmanship.
We strongly urge you to postpone this invitation until Israelis have cast their ballots and the deadline for diplomatic negotiations with Iran has passed. When the Israeli Prime Minister visits us outside the specter of partisan politics, we will be delighted and honored to greet him or her on the Floor of the House.
Sincerely,
Ji~ K ith Ellison Member of Congress
Steve Cohen — Member of Congress
Maxin’ WatersMember of Congress
Earl Blumenauer Member of Congress
Andre Carson Member of Congress
John Conyers, Jr.  Member of Congress
Danny K. Davis Member of  Congress
Luise V. Gutiérrez Member of Congress
Henry C. “Hank”Johnson, Jr. Member of Congress
 Eddie Bernice Johnson Member of Congress
Barbara Lee  Member of Congress
Bett McCoium Member of Congress
Jame’ P. McGovern Member of Congress

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Agreement Between Walid Jumblatt and Al-Nusra Front

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Image result for Walid Jumblatt CARTOON

By: Firas Choufi

March 3, 2015

Mediated by a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the talks between al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt were successful, culminating in an agreement regarding the Druze community in the Syrian city of Idlib. The agreement reportedly requires the local Druze to convert to Sunni Islam and demolish their shrines, in return for ANF suspending Sharia-sanctioned punishments against them.

Walid Jumblatt’s declaration that ANF is not a terrorist group has not helped protect the Druze community in Syria and Lebanon, just as the support voiced by some Syrians for Daesh’s “other face” has not helped protect them from the ANF’s brutality, murder, and displacement. Indeed, Sunni Muslims have been targeted and tormented by the radical jihadi groups as much as — if not more than — other religious communities and tribes in Syria and Iraq.

Though Jumblatt has so far succeeded in averting the execution of the kidnapped Lebanese soldiers (the Druze soldiers) by exonerating ANF — which is proving adept at exploiting internal Lebanese political dynamics — the efforts of the head of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) have failed to dissuade the group from trying to forcibly convert the Druze in Jabal al-Summaq, northern Syria, to the Wahhabi brand of Islam.

Jumblatt previously called on the Druze to “return to Islam.” He has spared no occasion to proclaim that ANF is part of the fabric of the Syrian society, while PSP minister Wael Abu Faour said two weeks ago in a television that the al-Qaeda affiliate “includes doctors and engineers” in its ranks. Similarly, Walid Jumblatt has jumped at every opportunity over the past two weeks to try to dissuade Druze religious leaders in Lebanon from speaking out about the plight of their coreligionists.

A month and a half ago, Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Tunisi, ANF’s emir to Jabal al-Summaq, gave 14 Druze villages until February 1 to demolish their shrines and renounce their faith, or face the consequences. The residents of the villages complied, and forged an agreement with ANF representatives to that effect. The people of these 14 villages proceeded to demolish their shrines, and agreed to let ANF imams lead them in prayers in their temples, which were converted to mosques. But ANF was not satisfied. A number of its fighters ransacked the Druze shrines, while al-Tunisi vowed to enforce full-blown Sharia provisions in their villages.

Only Sheikh Ali Zine al-Din, the head of the Druze Irfan Foundation in Lebanon, denounced what happened publicly. This outrage among the ranks of Druze clerics put pressure on Jumblatt. This, in addition to the issue of the kidnapped Druze soldiers, whose families threatened to escalate their protests and to react fiercely if something happens to their relatives, compelled the head of the PSP to act.

 

Jumblatt visited Turkey two weeks ago. It is no longer a secret that Turkish intelligence services coordinate with ANF in northern Syria, just as the Israeli intelligence services do in southern Syria. Jumblatt, who failed in the past to obtain guarantees from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the West, to protect the Druze, heard the same thing this time, and was told that there could be no guarantees.

The head of the PSP contacted the SNC for help. According to reports from Jabal al-Summaq, Abu Udai, an SNC member residing in the UAE, became involved in the affair as a mediator. Abu Udai visited Jabal al-Summaq with an ANF sharia judge from Saramda (north of Jabal al-Summaq), and had lunch in the town of Kaftin with village leaders. Abu Udai carried an acceptance by Jumblatt that the Druze convert and demolish their shrines, in return for ANF protection.

Jumblatt, meanwhile, was keen to omit the issue of the Druze community in Idlib from all discussions. Jumblatt met with members of the Druze Spiritual Council, in Beirut, to tell them to stop speaking out about the plight of the Druze in Idlib. Jumblatt told the Druze leaders that the community in Idlib would solve its problems on its own, as one participant told Al-Akhbar.

In addition, Jumblatt tasked his son Timor and a number of PSP ministers to visit Druze religious leaders in Lebanon including Sheikh Amin al-Aridi, to brief them on the developments and the agreement reached with ANF. Naturally, the Druze and their leaders want the “agreement” to succeed.

However, al-Tunisi did not want to break the rule established in the past few years, namely, that terrorist groups do not keep their promises, as one source in March 8-affiliated Druze groups put it. Indeed, reports indicate a meeting was held between al-Tunisi and village leaders in which the former said he would continue to seek to force comprehensive Sharia provisions on the Druze. The residents fear things could deteriorate further with al-Tunisi asking their men to shave their moustaches and leave their beards, or worse, to offer their women for marriage to ANF fighters.

South Lebanon and South Syria

Jumblatt’s overtures to ANF are not just about these issues. A friend of the PSP leader from March 8 believes Jumblatt and his team are convinced ANF is going to take full control of the Syrian south by the end of 2015. At a lunch attended by Wael Abu Faour and security leaders in Rashaya in mid-December 2014, Abu Faour reportedly said, “Our information indicates ANF will control the Syrian south and Mount Hermon with the end of 2015, bringing them to the border with the central and western Bekaa, as well as Rashaya and Hasbaya.”

Instead of preparing to fight ANF, Jumblatt gave PSP members in Rashaya and the “Popular Committees” in the southwest Damascus countryside orders to conceal their weapons because there was no cause for concern, according to both PSP and March 8 sources in Rashaya.

Moreover, Lebanese security sources say that Mohammad al-Numani, a leader in the Ahrah al-Sham Movement who was kidnapped by Baathists in December 2014 in the Bekaa, and handed over to Syrian intelligence services, was assisted by PSP members in Rashaya in his efforts to enter Lebanon. Security sources, however, deny that this was done at the orders of the PSP.

According to Syrian security sources that spoke to Al-Akhbar, Numani confessed that he was trying to establish cells for his group in the central and western Bekaa, to operate in coordination with ANF fighters in Kfir Yaboos, Yaboos, and Zabadani and open a gap from the Lebanese side, as well as to attack Syrian and Lebanese army positions on both sides of the borders and link the battlefronts from the Damascus road to Mount Hermon.


Israel, Jordan, and Al-Nusra

The Israeli and Jordanian intelligence services are not absent from the general Druze landscape. While Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah alluded to the alliance between ANF and Israel in Quneitra and Daraa in a recent speech, Speaker Nabih Berri went beyond that in a parliamentary meeting held a month ago.

Berri told MPs present at the meeting that Israel was working hard to coax the Druze into an alliance, and establish a buffer zone in northern Golan. Israel, Berri said, claimed this would protect the Druze from ANF terrorists, who, the speaker said, are also backed by Israel. Berri reportedly told the MPs he had contacted Jumblatt, who said he would visit Jordan to inquire about these reports.

In parallel, the Jordanian intelligence is said to have invited a number of Druze religious leaders from Syria and Lebanon to visit Amman routinely, to meet with Palestinian Druze collaborating with Israel. The purpose is to encourage the Druze in south Syria to collaborate with Israel and abandon the Syrian state and the new resistance movement emerging in Mount Hermon.

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Homan Square Allegation: Police Use Heroin On Suspects During Interrogations

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Indeed, for some there is “no outlet” from Homan Square.
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The Homan Square Black Site in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago, Illinois (TFC) – One of the more troubling aspects of the Homan Square interrogation facility is the death of John Hubbard who is said to have died of an accidental heroin overdose while in police custodyafter buying drugs from an undercover officer.

Prior to the other revelations about Homan Square, it would have just been assumed that the cops were incompetent and let the suspect shoot up the evidence. Then it would have been assumed that they were lazy when parts of the file missing. After the explosive revelations about the facility, the public has to wonder how a suspect was capable of shooting up while inside of a police facility. It is highly unlikely that a suspect on the verge of overdose would be out attempting to purchase narcotics. The only likely scenario is that he injected, or someone else injected him with, the narcotics inside the police facility.

In light of the situation, The Fifth Column began reaching out to other victims of Homan Square. One of those was Jose Gonzales. During our interview he relayed his story:

It began the way most of the incidents involving Homan Square do. A no-knock raid sent police storming into his house. They wore no uniforms and arrived in an unmarked minivan. They said they had a warrant, but wouldn’t let him see it. His pregnant cousin was pushed to the ground, his grandmother and the kids in the house had automatic weapons shoved in their faces, and Jose was taken away. They searched the home and found no drugs.

He was placed in an interview room inside of Homan Square where there was red stuff on the floor that he believes was blood. The police began asking him questions about narcotics deals. Jose couldn’t answer the questions not just because he wasn’t really involved in drugs, but because the Jose Gonzales the cops were looking for was born in the 1960s. Jose is currently 27. The police weren’t happy with Jose’s constant denials and statements that he didn’t know anything. He repeatedly requested a lawyer, but he was never allowed one. That’s when they told the handcuffed and shackled Jose that they were going to inject him with heroin to make him talk.

When Jose was telling his story this was a tiny detail that he glossed by, and I’m not sure if he realized exactly how important the bizarre threat was. In talking to him it definitely seemed like he wanted me to know that they beat people in the place and that there was blood on the floor. The heroin threat was kind of an afterthought.

He went on to tell me about them finally realizing they had the wrong guy. They told him they were going to charge him with a misdemeanor involving marijuana even though they didn’t find any pot. He had been held for more than 24 hours without access to a lawyer before he was allowed to leave. The officers didn’t allow Jose to use the phone to call somebody to pick him up and since he didn’t have any cash, Jose had to walk several miles back to his home. He never received a court date for the misdemeanor.

The story was confirmed by documentation involving the misdemeanor and by witnesses to his abduction and return. What was said inside the interrogation room can only be confirmed by the cops. I have to admit that in light of Chicago Police Department’s implausible explanations related to the heroin overdose that happened while in custody, I didn’t even call the department for comment. Eventually journalists reach a point where they are tired of being openly lied to by government officials.

The Fifth Column is currently interviewing scores of people that were detained in Homan Square, and those stories will be released at a later time. It became a priority to make this story public immediately once a Fifth Column journalist in Chicago was able to confirm that officers at Homan Square do, in fact, have access to heroin via the Homan Square evidence locker that stores narcotics seized in the city.

So the reader has to think critically. In the case of John Hubbard, who died of a heroin overdose in the facility, is it likely that police allowed him to shoot up the only evidence of his crime? Or is it more likely that Hubbard was uncooperative and they injected him with heroin in an effort to make him more relaxed and receptive to interrogation?

Either way, Hubbard died in a facility that routinely denies people basic constitutional protections. The Chicago Police Department has a duty to its citizens to close the facility and to arrest all of the officers that violated the rights of suspects. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a duty to conduct a probe of the facility in relation to the use of Heroin as a method of enhanced interrogation.

The denials by the Chicago Police Department reek of a government organization that is waiting for the scandal to blow over. The Fifth Column now has access to enough former detainees to run one story a week until sometime in late 2016. We will not allow this story to blow over. The legal process in the United States is designed to be transparent. Any attempt at subverting the rule of law and the basic rights of people in the city will be met with a constant barrage of media attention. This facility must be closed and those behind the abuses must go to prison.

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DoD Releases “Evidence” Of Snowden’s Damages To National Security … And It’s COMPLETELY Redacted

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Since Edward Snowden exposed the expansive spying practices of the federal government, authorities like Rogers have claimed that the former CIA and NSA analyst compromised national security. However, they have yet to provide a single instance of their claims.

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Per a Freedom of Information Act Request lawsuit filed by Vice News, the Department of Defense has released a report on the damaging effects of Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA leaks. The only problem? It’s redacted. Entirely. Not a crumb of evidence was present in the “evidence” the government released.

The “assessment” is made up of multiple reports collectively over 100 pages long and was released by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a wing of the Department of Defense. It was made by two dozen DIA analysts and is fully blocked out, save for several headings. For example:

  • “Assessment”
  • “Talking Points”
  • “Compromised Information”
  • “Background”
  • “Recommendations”

The redacted reports were constructed from September 2013 to April 2014. According to a declaration signed by the DIA’s FOIA office chair, Aleysia Williams, it was used by DOD “leadership” to “mitigate the harm caused to national security” by Snowden.

David Leatherwood, the DIA’s director of operations, said that to do this, secrecy must be employed (as usual). He alleged:

“To accomplish this goal, the reporting of the task force focuses entirely on identifying the magnitude of the harm. Much of that reporting, for very legitimate reasons, remains classified. “

Further, at a conference on Monday,  NSA chief Mike Rogers claimed of the Snowden leaks:

“Anyone who thinks this has not had an impact… doesn’t know what they are talking about.”

Since Edward Snowden exposed the expansive spying practices of the federal government, authorities like Rogers have claimed that the former CIA and NSA analyst compromised national security. However, they are yet to provide a single instance of their claims. They have not even been able to prove that the NSA’s bulk data collection has an effect on terrorism whatsoever.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (of the same name as the NSA chair), who had the privilege of reading a different-and apparently less redacted-report last year, insisted,

“[That] report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk… Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”

Rather than focusing on what Snowden’s actions have allegedly done to “troops in the field,” it would be more productive to acknowledge other revelations: America is spying on world leaders, its military has murdered journalists and raped boys in front of their mothers, the CIA botched an attempt to give fake nuclear plans to Iran and later launched a cyber attack while the NSA hacked North Korea long before the Sony scandal. This is but a handful of the egregious crimes committed by the federal government. They have compromised national security and the safety of American troops exponentially more than Snowden’s revelations ever could. They create ill-will and terrorists through corrupt meddling and violence.

The government’s attempts to deflect the realities of its illegal spying are growing increasingly desperate and pathetic. Those at the DIA and DOD have no evidence to offer of their claims but stacks of blacked out pages and the tired talking point that they are “here to help.”

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US Pilot Detained In Venezuela; Accused Of Recruiting Citizens For Coup

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The pilot’s capture comes on the heels of four missionaries being detained and questioned on similar charges in Ocumare de la Costa, a coastal town located in the northern part of the South American nation.
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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds up a small copy on the constitution during a meeting with leaders of the opposition at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 10, 2014.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – An unnamed American has been detained in Venezuela,according to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Speaking at a rally on Saturday, Maduro said that an “American pilot” with “Latino roots” had been captured near the Colombian border, in the western state of Táchira. The pilot, who was arrested along with five other U.S. nationals over the past few days, is being accused of espionage and attempting to recruit Venezuelan citizens in order to stage a coup and overthrow Maduro’s administration.

The pilot’s capture comes on the heels of four missionaries being detained and questioned on similar charges in Ocumare de la Costa, a coastal town located in the northern part of the South American nation. All four North Dakota missionaries – who have been in custody since Wednesday – were released on Saturday.

President Maduro stated that the pilot had “all kinds of documentation” to prove his affiliation with the United States.

Earlier this month, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Venezuelan officials, citing corruption and human rights violations.

The Venezuelan president responded with similar restrictions. Maduro banned certain U.S. officials – including George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio – from visiting Venezuela. He charged that these officials encouraged terrorism and also accused them of various human rights abuses, explicitly in Syria and Iraq.

Maduro has also recently accused the United States of collusion in a plot to bomb the presidential palace.

The White House responded to these accusations by labeling them as ludicrous.

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NY Demonstrators Say No to Naziyahu While DC Protesters Rally to ShutDownAIPAC

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Against the backdrop of AIPAC, Israeli Apartheid Week, Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress, and Iran’s nuclear talks with the U.S., activists and demonstrators find a perfect storm for protesting Israel’s actions on a number of fronts.

NEW YORK — Dozens of demonstrators in New York braved driving snow on Sunday to protest the arrival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States.

“One of the issues we aim to raise awareness about is Israel’s impunity against international law through its unconditional support from the United States,” Hani Ghazi, the New York-area Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) coordinator, told MintPress News before speaking at the rally. “Netanyahu’s speech perpetuates that complicity.”

While those demonstrators gathered outside the News Corp. Building in Midtown Manhattan, hundreds moreconverged in Washington, D.C. to protest the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Dozens blocked the doors to the convention center, many with gruesome Netanyahu masks and hands coated in fake blood. Five people were arrested.

Netanyahu is expected to speak at the AIPAC conference on Monday evening, then address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

 

Broad, sustained criticism

Benjamin Netanyahu, John Boehner


His appearance before Congress has drawn broad criticism from the Democratic Party because John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, who invited Netanyahu to address his chamber and the Senate, did not coordinate the appearance with President Barack Obama, a routine courtesy for official appearances by foreign heads of state.

Others oppose the announced content of Netanyahu’s speech to U.S. lawmakers: a call for new sanctions against Iran and a condemnation of the Obama administration’s efforts to reach a multilateral agreement with the country on its use of nuclear energy. The diplomatic initiative is a key project of Obama’s second term.

Some have criticized the appearance as an attempt to boost Netanyahu’s appeal to Israeli voters two weeks ahead of Israel’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 17.

At least 40 Democratic members of Congress, including four senators, have announced that they plan to skip the joint session after weeks of pressure grassroots pressure, including over 110,00 letters from constituents. Many frame their absence as an act of political protest.

“[A]t this time your invitation is contrary to the standards by which our Congress operates and has the potential to harm US Foreign policy,” Rep. Keith Ellison wrote in a public letter signed by 22 other Democratic members of Congress and sent to Boehner on Feb. 18.

The letter added that Netanyahu’s appearance “enlists a foreign leader to influence a Presidential policy initiative.”

“We strongly urge you to postpone this invitation until Israelis have cast their ballots and the deadline for diplomatic negotiations with Iran has passed,” it said.

Obama announced that he would refuse to meet Netanyahu so close to Israel’s election, as did Secretary of State John Kerry. Vice President Joe Biden pointedly sidestepped the issue by leaving the country for the duration of Netanyahu’s visit.

Kerry told a Congressional hearing on Wednesday that Netanyahu “may have a judgment that just may not be correct here.” This came the day after National Security Advisor Susan Rice called the visit “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the U.S. and Israel.

Even AIPAC, along with senior Israeli officials like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and military chief of staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, have warned that the stunt may damage U.S.-Israeli ties, as have opposition leaders across Israel’s political spectrum.

In an apparent rejoinder to the mounting criticism, Netanyahu last week refused an invitation from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin to meet privately with Senate Democrats during his visit.

“His refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades,” Sen. Dick Durbinsaid in a rare rebuke of an Israeli leader by a member of Congress.

Leveraging the wedge between the parties

Benjamin Netanyahu, John McCainIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with U.S. Senator John McCain during a meeting with the Israeli and U.S. delegations at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

Yet despite their opposition to Netanyahu, many of those protesting his arrival found little to celebrate in his war of words with the Democratic Party.

“Every U.S. administration, whether Republican or Democrat, has been for Israel, and for endless funds to Israel,” Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center (IAC), told MintPress News.

The IAC, a New York-based activist group, was among two dozen organizations whose members and supporters gathered at Sunday’s rally in Manhattan.

“Is Obama threatened by this?” Flounders asked. “It’s an attack on a certain diplomatic initiative, by which Israel is very threatened. Is this really a big struggle between Republicans and Democrats? That’s always going on. However, both sides support Israel, support Zionism, and support U.S. dominance in the region.”

Even members of Congress who oppose Netanyahu’s speech, she said, “have made it very clear that they stand with Israel.”

Indeed, the 23 congressmen and women who signed the Ellison letter asserted, “Our relationship with Israel is too important to use as a pawn in political gamesmanship.”

Meanwhile, Anna Kaminski, protest coordinator for the women’s activist group CODEPINK, which has organized a series of demonstrations in Washington, including Sunday’s, took a more optimistic view of the partisan dispute.

“A wedge has been driven between Democrats and Republicans,” Kaminski told MintPress. “While it’s about politics, we can continue to push this.”

“It’s very clear that this is a moment,” she added. “We’re going after AIPAC, and it’s timely. There’s really no better time to push the issue of Israel/Palestine, demand justice and free Congress from the chains of the Israel lobby.”

Despite the conflict at times resembling stage-managed political theater, Flounders says it raises issues of crucial importance.

“The invitation by the congressional Republican right wing for Netanyahu to speak was an effort to use him as a battering ram against the overwhelming sentiment in the U.S. today against another war,” she said.

AIPAC likewise hopes to push the U.S. into war, Kaminski said. “AIPAC continues to push for legislation against Iran and demonize them as a safe-haven for terrorism in the region, which is just not true.”

Flounders added that Netanyahu’s appearance in Congress aims to deflect attention from his role in the occupation of Palestine, focusing instead on the Israel’s threats against Iran.

“He is a war criminal, without a doubt,” she said. “Yet he’s not coming to address the question of Palestine. He’s coming to demand an escalation against Iran.”

Marking the beginning of the end?

The rally in New York raised both issues, as demonstrators ranging from Black Lives Matter activists and Neturei Karta rabbis, to members of Filipino, Haitian, Honduran, Pakistani, and Venezuelan community organizations, as well representatives from a range of Palestinian and Iranian groups, called for a comprehensive peace deal with Iran and an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

Protesters in Washington also sought to press each concern through their blockade of the AIPAC conference, Kaminski said.

“It’s about both. It’s about confronting the Israel lobby on everything they do. They continue working to drive us to war with Iran, which is not okay. At the same time, the Israel/Palestine issue is the crux of everything we do.”

Sunday’s demonstration outside the AIPAC conference, which followed the launch of the Washington mobilization through direct action trainings and a speaking event on the similarities between anti-colonial movements on Saturday, drew an estimated 400 participants, according to protest organizers.

“I’m guessing AIPAC had some kind of agreement with the police, who were rent-a-cops, not to arrest protesters,” Kaminski said. But the five arrestees, who attended a workshop on civil disobedience Saturday, were eventually hauled away, then charged with infractions and released. “They really wanted to be arrested.”

The New York demonstration came three days after the local kick-off to IAW, a global series of annual events organized in solidarity with Palestinians.

As IAW continues in New York, protests in Washington will last through two more days of the AIPAC conference, with demonstrations organized by the ANSWER Coalition and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as CODEPINK, building toward Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Tuesday.

“We’re committed to confronting AIPAC and challenging the power of the Israel lobby,” Kaminski said. “It’s about making this the beginning of the end.”

Posted in USAComments Off on NY Demonstrators Say No to Naziyahu While DC Protesters Rally to ShutDownAIPAC

How Islamic Is Islamic State group? Not Very, Experts Say

NOVANEWS
The Islamic State, one expert said, is trying to make God “a co-conspirator in a genocidal project.”
By  
Image result for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, PHOTO
The leader of the Islamic State group, his Jewish Mossad name Simon Elliot  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become “jihadi” brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded.

They are among tens of thousands of Muslims eager to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group. An estimated 20,000 have streamed into the territory in Iraq and Syria where the group has proclaimed what it calls a “caliphate” ruled by its often brutal version of Islamic law.

But how rooted in Islam is the ideology embraced by this group that has inspired so many to fight and die?

President Barack Obama has insisted the militants behind a brutal campaign of beheadings, kidnappings and enslavement are “not Islamic” and only use a veneer of Islam for their own ends. Obama’s critics argue the extremists are intrinsically linked to Islam. Others insist their ideology has little connection to religion.

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The group claims for itself the mantle of Islam’s earliest years, purporting to recreate the conquests and rule of the Prophet Muhammad and his successors. But in reality its ideology is a virulent vision all its own, one that its adherents have created by plucking selections from centuries of traditions.

The vast majority of Muslim clerics say the group cherry picks what it wants from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, and from accounts of Muhammad’s actions and sayings, known as the Hadith. It then misinterprets many of these, while ignoring everything in the texts that contradicts those hand-picked selections, these experts say.

The group’s claim to adhere to the prophecy and example of Muhammad helps explain its appeal among young Muslim radicals eager to join its ranks. Much like Nazi Germany evoked a Teutonic past to inspire its followers, Islamic State propaganda almost romantically depicts its holy warriors as re-establishing the caliphate, contending that ideal of Islamic rule can come only through blood and warfare.

It maintains its worst brutalities — beheading captives, taking women and girls as sex slaves and burning to death a captured Jordanian pilot — only prove its purity in following what it contends is the prophet’s example, a claim that appalls the majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

Writings by the group’s clerics and ideologues and its English-language online magazine, Dabiq, are full of citations from Quranic verses, the Hadith and centuries of interpreters, mostly hard-liners.

But these are often taken far out of context, said Joas Wagemakers, an assistant professor of Islamic Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, who specializes in Islamic militant thought.

Muslim scholars throughout history have used texts in a “decontextualized way” to suit their purposes, Wagemakers said. But the Islamic State goes “further than any other scholars have done. They represent the extreme,” he said.

It would be a mistake to conclude the Islamic State group’s extremism is the “true Islam” that emerges from the Quran and Hadith, he added.

Despite its claim to the contrary, the Islamic State group is largely political, borne out of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Islamic law scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The group, he said, is trying to make God “a co-conspirator in a genocidal project.”

Ahmed al-Dawoody, an assistant professor at the Institute for Islamic World Studies at Zayed University in Dubai, agreed.

The phenomenon of reading religious sources out of context “has existed throughout the ages,” he said. “We should not grant any legitimacy to those who violate Islam, then hijack it and speak on its behalf.”

“This is not Islamic terror, this is terror committed by Muslims,” he said.

IS not only misreads the texts it cites, most clerics say, it also ignores Quranic verses and a long body of clerical scholarship requiring mercy, preservation of life and protection of innocents, and setting out rules of war — all of which are binding under Islamic Shariah law.

Many mainstream clerics compare the group to the Khawarij, an early sect that was so notorious for “takfir,” or declaring other Muslims heretics for even simple sins, that it was rejected by the faith. The Islamic State group denies that, but it draws heavily from 20th-century theories of “takfir” developed by hard-liners.

Part of the problem in countering the group’s ideology is that moderate clerics have struggled to come up with a cohesive, modern interpretation, especially of the Quranic verses connected to Muhammad’s wars with his enemies.

Militants often point to the Quran’s ninth sura, or chapter, which includes calls for Muslims to “fight polytheists wherever you find them” and to subdue Christians and Jews until they pay a tax. Moderate clerics counter that these verses are linked to specifics of the time and note other verses that say there is “no force in religion.”

And while moderate clerics counter the Islamic State group’s interpretation point-by-point, at times they accept the same tenets.

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb — the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seats of learning — denounced the burning of the Jordanian pilot as a violation of Islam. But then he called for the perpetrators to be subjected to the same punishment that IS prescribes for those who “wage war on Islam” — crucifixion, death or the amputation of hands and legs.

This turns the debate into one over who has the authority to determine the “correct” interpretation of Islam’s holy texts. Since many of the most prominent clerics in the Middle East are part of state-run institutions, militant supporters dismiss them as compromised and accommodating autocratic rulers.

The Islamic State group’s segregation of the sexes, imposition of the veil on women, destruction of shrines it considers heretical, hatred of Shiites and condoning of punishments like lashings or worse are accepted by clerics in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, who follow the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

But IS goes further.

For example, most militaries in the era of Muhammad — the 7th century — beheaded enemies and enslaved populations they captured in war, including taking women as concubines. There are citations in the Hadith of Muhammad or his successors ordering beheadings, and verses in the Quran set out rules for dealing with slaves.

Pivoting off these, the Islamic State group contends that anyone who rejects beheadings or enslavement is not a real Muslim and has been corrupted by modern Western ideas.

One Islamic State cleric, Sheikh Hussein bin Mahmoud, wrote a vehement defense of beheadings after the killing of American journalist James Foley.

“Those who pervert Islam are not those who cut off the heads of disbelievers and terrorize them,” he wrote, “but those who want (Islam) to be like Mandela or Gandhi, with no killing, no fighting, no blood or striking necks.”

Islam, he wrote, is the religion “of battle, of cutting heads, of shedding blood.”

To support beheadings, the group cites the Quran as calling on Muslims to “strike the necks” of their enemies. But other clerics counter the verse means Muslim fighters should swiftly kill enemies in the heat of battle, and is not a call to execute captives. Moreover, IS ignores the next part of the verse, which says Muslims should set prisoners of war free as an act of charity or for ransom.

The Islamic State group “appears to have adopted violent ideas first, then searched books of religious interpretation to find a cover for their actions,” said Sheikh Hamadah Nassar, a cleric in the ultraconservative Salafi movement.

In June, the extremists declared a caliphate, or “khilafa” in Arabic, in the lands it controls in Iraq and Syria, with its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliph — a declaration roundly ridiculed by Muslim clerics of all stripes. But here too, the group went further, saying that Islam requires the existence of a caliphate and anyone who refuses to recognize its declaration is not a true Muslim.

“The hopes of khilafa became an undeniable reality,” the group proclaimed in its online magazine, Dabiq. Any Muslim who refuses IS authority will be “dealt with by the decisive law of Allah.”

After that, the stream of IS recruits swelled by thousands.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on How Islamic Is Islamic State group? Not Very, Experts Say

Russian Opposition: Putin Did NOT Assassinate Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov

NOVANEWS

Image result for Boris Nemtsov. PHOTO

Boris Nemtsov
Global Research

U.S. media is quick to blame Putin for the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

But Itina Khakamada – a top ally of Nemtsov in the opposition – said the killing was clearly not in Putin’s interest. It’s aimed at rocking the situation.”

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says the the killing is aimed at “destabilizing the situation in the country, at heightening confrontation” with the West.

Gorbachev says:

The assassination of Boris Nemtsov is an attempt to complicate the situation in the country, even to destabilize it by ratcheting up tensions between the government and the opposition.

Even the U.S. government’s Voice of America states – in an article entitledCould Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life? – that Putin loses much more than he gains by the assassination:

With the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, gunned down on a Moscow street, the fiercest critic of President Vladimir Putin has been removed from the political stage. But it remains to be seen whether, in death as in life, Nemtsov will remain a threat to Putin’s rule.

Already, city authorities have approved a mass march for up to 50,000 people in central Moscow on Sunday. The march, expected to be far larger than the scheduled protest rally it replaces, will provide a powerful platform for Kremlin critics who suspect a government hand in Nemtsov’s death.

Even officials in Putin’s government seem to sense the danger that the former first deputy prime minister’s martyrdom might pose, hinting darkly that Friday night’s drive-by shooting may have been an deliberate “provocation” ahead of the planned weekend rally.

Posted in RussiaComments Off on Russian Opposition: Putin Did NOT Assassinate Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov


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