Archive | November 5th, 2015

NYPD under fire over cop who ‘converted’ to Islam to spy on college students

NOVANEWS
Image result for NYPD LOGO
RT 

Civil rights activists are speaking out about revelations that an undercover detective with the New York Police Department “converted” to Islam in order to spy on Muslim students at Brooklyn College over a four-year period.

That work led to the recent arrest of two Queens women allegedly involved in a terrorist bomb plot.

The NYPD has already been under fire for running a demographics unit which conducted blanket surveillance of the Muslim community after 9/11 in New York and New Jersey, despite such activity being in violation of the Constitution.

“The problem has been that the courts who are tasked with determining what is and what is not unconstitutional, illegal – and what is and is not entrapment – have been complicit, and have expanded the prosecutorial and police powers to engage in predatory practices against Muslim communities in particular,” human rights attorney Lamis Deek told RT.

“While under law and logic this would be considered entrapment. If you look at the complaint, it is clear this case is entrapment. Unfortunately we are not going to find a court or a judge to do that,” Deek added.

The revelations about the NYPD’s undercover operation came from a Justice Department release announcing the arrest of two Queens women, Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, on conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction in April 2015. It revealed that a detective from the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau was heavily involved in bringing the girls to justice and foiling the bomb plot,according to the Gothamist.

“The work of the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau, its undercover Detective, and its seamless collaboration with the Special Agents and the Detectives of the Joint Terrorism Task Force… should serve as a model for early detection and prevention of terrorist plotting,” said NYPD Commissioner William Bratton in the release.

Deek said that in a case like Velentzas and Siddiqui’s, where the plot is manufactured and orchestrated by a confidential informant – in this case, the officer went by “Mel” – and those working with the informant, law enforcement will make sure that the defendants’ lives are so “infiltrated” and controlled that they behave in a way that ensures they can have no defense.

“The law says that if defendants speak about political issues that relate to the case then [they] are predisposed to engaging in these acts, and that predisposition overcomes [their] defense of entrapment,” said Deek.

The Justice Department alleged the girls had researched how to construct bombs to use as a weapon of mass destruction on American soil. They obtained bomb-making instructions and materials, and used instructions provided by Al-Qaeda’s online magazine.

Deeks said that what is telling about the complaint is that the NYPD informant, Mel, had been working around young people at the college for four years. Yet there was no issue or suspicious activity until she met the two Queens women who were ultimately arrested in July 2014.

“The complaint only lists actions that these two girls took from August onwards, from the time they met this undercover informant and she built a relationship with them,” Deek said. “What we see instead is the Joint Terrorism Task Force informant was in the very least inciting them to engage in these actions that would later lead to their arrest.”

Mother Jones reported that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and its use of informants takes a majority share of the Bureau’s budget, requiring $3.3 billion to support a national network of 15,000 informants who are paid $100,000 per case, or who work off criminal or immigration violations.

“The problem with the cases we’re talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents,” says Martin Stolar, a lawyer who represented a man caught in a 2004 sting involving New York’s Herald Square subway station, told Mother Jones. “They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror.”

On this point, Deek concurs, but she added that while this operation is not effective, it is creating fear.

“What they have done effectively is terrorize the Arab-Muslim-Pakistani communities of New York and the US. People are afraid to talk to each other. They don’t know who is who, and what is what. They are being disciplined and their First Amendment rights are being actively curtailed, so this is a very violative program that mimics tactics … of occupying governments,” Deek said.

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America’s Non-representative War Government

NOVANEWS
Image result for CIA LOGO
By Sheldon Richman 

“The success of government…,” the late historian Edmund Morgan wrote, “requires the acceptance of fictions, requires the willing suspension of disbelief, requires us to believe that the emperor is clothed even though we can see that he is not.”

Representation is chief among those fictions.

“Just as the exaltation of the king could be a means of controlling him,” Morgan continued, “so the exaltation of the people can be a means of controlling them…. If the representative consented, his constituents had to make believe that they had done so.”

Questioning the authenticity of representative government may seem beyond the pale in America. But occasionally the veil slips, and we glimpse reality. If we really live under a representative government, how can a president take the country to war without even a show vote in Congress, much less a referendum? (The proposed Ludlow Amendment to the Constitution would have required a referendum on war.)

Barack Obama has announced he is sending special operations forces into Syria to help those fighting both the government of Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State, just as last year he ordered airstrikes in Syria. He previously said he would not send ground forces, but you can forget about that now. After a Delta Force soldier was killed there while on a raid last month, Secretary of War Ash Carter acknowledged that Americans will be at risk. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said, “The norm is not going out in raids. I’m obviously not going to rule anything out.”

Note well: the U.S. Congress has not declared war on Syria (nor should it), so Obama’s moves are unconstitutional and illegal. Last year Obama asked Congress for an “authorization for the use of military force” (AUMF) — it went nowhere and is going nowhere— while insisting he did not need it. The administration (echoing George W. Bush) says any president has the inherent power under the Constitution to do what he’s doing in Syria. The administration first suggested the AUMFs of 2001 and 2002 were sufficient, but that claim was demolished. The 2001 AUMF said Bush could attack al-Qaeda and its associates. Neither Assad nor the Islamic State qualifies: al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front, is also trying to overthrow Assad, and the Islamic State emerged from a split in al-Qaeda. The 2002 AUMF was aimed at Iraqi president Saddam Hussein — it could hardly apply to Syria.

More fundamentally, an AUMF is not a declaration of war; it’s a blank-check, unconstitutional delegation of power from Congress to a president. Consider the 2002 AUMF. As I wrote back then:

The resolution would authorize Mr. Bush to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to 1) defend the national security interests of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq and 2) to enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” The key phrase is “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate.” It would be consistent with the resolution for Mr. Bush to decide that it was neither necessary nor appropriate to use force against Iraq at all.

In other words, the Congress is not declaring that a state of war exists between Iraq and the United States. On the contrary, the President will decide when and if a state of war exists. The resolution requires only that he “certify” that diplomatic efforts have failed before he uses force. Indeed, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt confirmed that Congress will not be declaring war when he said, “we should deal with it [the Iraqi problem] diplomatically if we can, militarily if we must. And I think this resolution does that.”

Orwellian war-denial is nothing new for the Obama administration. Obama refused to call the 2011 regime-changing air campaign in Libya a war; thus he dismissed the War Powers Resolution as irrelevant. (That 1973 measure was Congress’s feeble attempt to rein in de facto presidential power to make war and rectify the constitutional usurpation that began with Harry Truman’s “police action” in Korea in 1950.)

Going to war is the most consequential step a government can take. If the people have nothing to say about war ex ante, the government can hardly be described as representative.

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War in Syria? Where Is Speaker Ryan?

NOVANEWS
Image result for war in syria photos
By Pat Buchanan 

“The United States is being sucked into a new Middle East war,” says The New York Times. And the Times has it exactly right.

Despite repeated pledges not to put “boots on the ground” in Syria, President Obama is inserting 50 U.S. special ops troops into that country, with more to follow.

U.S. A-10 “warthog” attack planes have been moved into Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, close to Syria.

Hillary Clinton, who has called for arming Syrian rebels to bring down Bashar Assad, is urging Obama to establish a no-fly zone inside Syria.

Citing Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus, John McCain is calling for a no-fly zone and a safe zone in Syria, to be policed by U.S. air power.

“How many men, women and children,” McCain asks, “are we willing to watch being slaughtered by the Russians and Bashar al-Assad?”

Yet, if we put U.S. forces onto sovereign Syrian territory, against the will and resistance of that government, that is an act of war.

Would we tolerate Mexican troops in Texas to protect their citizens inside our country? Would we, in the Cold War, have tolerated Russians in Cuba telling us they were establishing a no-fly zone for all U.S. warplanes over the Florida Strait and Florida Keys?

Obama has begun an escalation into Syria’s civil war, and not only against ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, but against Syria’s armed forces.

Mission creep has begun. The tripwire is being put down. Yet, who authorized Obama to take us into this war? The Russians and Iranians are in Syria at the invitation of the government. But Obama has no authorization from Congress to put combat troops into Syria.

Neither the al-Nusra Front nor ISIS has an air force. Against whom, then, is this Clinton-McCain no fly-zone directed, if not Syrian and Russian warplanes and helicopters?

Is America really prepared to order the shooting down of Russian warplanes and the killing of Russian pilots operating inside Syria with the approval of the Syrian government?

In deepening America’s involvement and risking a clash with Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces, Obama is contemptuously ignoring a Congress that has never authorized the use of military force against the Damascus regime.

Congress’ meek acquiescence in being stripped of its war powers is astonishing. Weren’t these the Republicans who were going to Washington to “stand up to Obama”?

Coming after Congress voted for “fast track,” i.e., to surrender its constitutional right to amend trade treaties, the capitulations of 2015 rank as milestones in the long decline into irrelevance of the U.S. Congress. Yet in the Constitution, Congress is still the first branch of the U.S. government.

Has anyone thought through to where this U.S. intervention can lead?

This weekend, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regained full control of the parliament in a “khaki election” it called after renewing its war on the Kurdish PKK in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.

Erdogan regards the PKK as a terror group. As do we. But Erdogan also considers Syria’s Kurdish fighters, the YPG, to be terrorists. And Ankara has warned that if the YPG occupies more territory along the Syrian-Turkish border, west of the Euphrates, Turkey will attack.

Why should this concern us?

Not only do we not regard the YPG as terrorists, they are the fighting allies we assisted in the recapture of Kobani. And the U.S. hopes Syria’s Kurds will serve as the spear point of the campaign to retake Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria, which is only a few dozen miles south of YPG lines.

Should the YPG help to defeat ISIS and become the dominant power in northern Syria, the more dangerous they will appear to Erdogan, and the more problems that will create between the Turkish president and his NATO ally, the United States.

Not only does a Congressional debate on an authorization to use military force appear constitutionally mandated before we intervene in Syria, but the debate itself on an AUMF might induce a measure of caution before we plunge into yet another Middle East quagmire.

When Saddam fell, we got civil war, ISIS in Anbar, and a fractured and failed state with hundreds dying every week.

And, as of today, no one knows with certitude who rises if Assad falls.

The leading candidates are Jabhat al-Nusra, the front for an al-Qaida that brought down the twin towers[sic], and the butchers of ISIS, who captured another town on the Damascus road this weekend.

Monday, The Wall Street Journal wrote that Erdogan’s regrettable victory is “a reminder of what happens when America’s refusal to act to stop chaos in places like Syria frightens allies into making unpalatable choices.”

Now there’s an argument for America’s plunging into Syria: Send our troops to fight and die in multisided civil war that has cost 250,000 lives, so Turks will feel reassured enough they won’t vote for “strongmen” like Erdogan.

America needs an America First movement.

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The Syrian Democratic Forces: Just an Invention by Washington to Save Face?

NOVANEWS
Sputnik 

As America’s previous strategies for dealing with the Syrian crisis fell into disarray, the Pentagon scrambled to gather a ragtag band of militia groups under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces. But the new alliance is barely holding together, and may in fact have been dreamed up as an excuse to continue pumping weapons into the region.

Mere days after the Obama administration announced it was ending its controversial plan to train and equip so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, a new player arrived on the scene.

“The sensitive state our country Syria is going through and rapid developments on the military and political front… require that there be a united national military force for all Syrians, joining Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs and other groups,” read a statement released by the newly formed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) last month.

The alliance consists of the Kurdish YPG militia, an Assyrian Christian group, and a number of various Arab groups collectively known as the Syrian Arab Coalition.

And according to a senior US military official speaking to the New York Times, the Syrian Arab Coalition was “an American invention.”

Washington’s new Syria strategy involves supporting this nebulous ground alliance in a fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group – in addition to sending between 30 and 50 US Special Forces as “advisers.”

But according to the government officials, the Syrian Arab Coalition consists of only 5,000 fighters. These are spread across various groups without any real central leadership, and approximately 20% of those forces said they had no interest in staging an offensive against IS.

If the SDF is to display any effectiveness, it will be from the 40,000-strong Kurdish militia – a fact which doesn’t exactly sit well with America’s Turkish allies. But by creating the Syrian Arab Coalition, the United States can indirectly arm the Kurds while maintaining plausible deniability.

“The YPG is a very effective fighting force, and it can do a lot. But these Arab groups are weak and just a fig leaf for the YPG,” Barak Barfi, of the New America Foundation, told the Times.

“There is no deep-rooted alliance between these groups; this is a shifting tactical alliance.”

The Syrian Arab Coalition is all but nonexistent, but even the broader SDF is in tatters. Despite the Pentagon’s dumping of 50 tons of ammunition into Syria last month, the alliance is in desperate need of heavy weapons, radios, infrastructure, leadership, and, yes, ammunition.

Visiting the frontlines in Syria, Ben Hubbard of the New York Times reported on just how ill-equipped the alliance is. Fighters wear old, worn-out boots and ragged fatigues. Security checkpoints are manned by teenagers armed with aging rifles. The only unifying factor at this time appears to be a yellow flag meant to represent the SDF, though it has no command posts to fly over.

“This is the state of our fighters: trying to fight ISIS with simple means,” one commander said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.

The SDF is also in dire need of leadership. While the group is meant to be led by a six-person military council, that council currently consists of a single individual, who largely serves as little more than a spokesman.

Creating an illusory group to justify military actions in Syria isn’t exactly a new strategy for the Obama administration. When the US-led coalition first began airstrikes in Syria, Pentagon officials said they were targeting an al-Qaeda affiliate known as Khorasan.

“There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful way or identifiable manner,” Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain wrote for the Intercept.

“What happened here is all-too-familiar. The Obama administration needed propagandistic and legal rationale for bombing yet another predominantly Muslim country.”

With the SDF, the administration can similarly deny arming Kurdish militias, and pretend it has an actual strategy in the region.

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