US to Speed Up Arms Sales to Jordan


President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary on Wednesday vowed to cut through
“red tape” slowing Us arms deliveries to Jordan, which plans to step up its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the killing of a captured Jordanian pilot.

Ashton Carter, a former No. 2 Pentagon official, told the Senate Armed Services Committee it was important for Jordan to be able to acquire the weapons it needed, and he would work to address concerns raised by King Abdullah during a meeting with committee members on Tuesday.

“We need partners on the ground to beat ISIS,” Carter told the committee during a hearing on his nomination, adding that Jordan need help in fighting a “savage and nasty” foe.

Jordan on Wednesday said it would intensify its efforts to fight ISIS after the release of a video said to show the pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh, being burned alive in a cage. Abdullah cut short a visit to Washington after the release of the video.

US Senator John McCain, chairman of the committee, said King Abdullah had told senators at the US Capitol on Tuesday that Jordan was unable to get military equipment it needed in a timely fashion, sometimes for as long as a year.

All 26 members of his committee signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday urging them to send Amman everything it needs immediately.

McCain said the committee would also consider proposing legislation if needed to achieve goals outlined by the king during his meeting with committee members.

Carter told the hearing he was not familiar with the specific concerns raised by Abdullah but would address the issue promptly if confirmed as defense secretary.

He said he knew well how unnecessary “red tape” could slow deliveries of equipment, and had seen similar issues regarding weapons needed by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during his previous jobs in the Pentagon.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was not aware of specific requests made by Jordan for additional weapons, but the Obama administration would consider any request submitted.

Carter said he could “well believe” that arms deliveries to Jordan were proceeding slower than King Abdullah or US officials found acceptable.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US government had signed a memorandum of understanding that would significantly increase US assistance to Jordan. She said she was not aware of any bottlenecks in delivering weapons.

Following the killing of Kassasbeh, Jordan said it will intensify its efforts with the US-led international coalition fighting ISIS, which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, Jordan’s neighbors to the north and east.

“We are talking about a collaborative effort between coalition members to intensify efforts to stop extremism and terrorism to undermine, degrade and eventually finish Daesh (ISIS),” Mohammed al-Momani, a Jordanian government spokesman, said.

The Syrian foreign ministry, meanwhile, called on Jordan “to cooperate in the fight against terrorism represented by the organization Daesh and [al-Qaeda’s Syria branch] al-Nusra Front … and other terrorist organizations associated with them in Syria and the region.”

Jordan is a major US-ally in the fight against ISIS and is home to hundreds of US military trainers bolstering defenses in the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

The United States has said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIS.

Described as the world’s wealthiest “terror” group, ISIS no longer relies on wealthy donors from Gulf states and has become financially self-sustainable in both Iraq and Syria, earning $1 million a day from black market oil sales alone.

The returns of oil trade contribute to the expansion of recruitment of these extremist groups.

The US-led coalition of around 60 mainly Western and Arab states has been bombing Iraq and Syria since August and September respectively, but has so far failed to fully stop the advance of militants.

Critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, Jordan, and Turkey played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing, and politically empowering the armed opposition groups in Syria, and also allowing insurgents to freely infiltrate into the country.

Syrian newspapers on Wednesday said that ISIS’ murder of a captured Jordanian pilot is the consequence of Amman’s support for armed Syrian rebels, echoing longstanding claims by the Syrian government that Jordan is backing “terrorists” by supporting rebels. The Syrian regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists.”

Jordan also hosted US troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The steady expansion of terrorist groups in Iraq, especially in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, raises questions about the effectiveness of the US anti-terrorism campaign since 2001.

Anbar was the main battleground between US Marines and al-Qaeda during the “surge” campaign in 2006-2007.

The United States decided to invade Iraq in 2003 using the pretexts of “fighting terrorism” and the presence of “weapons of mass destruction.”

The war aimed to eliminate al-Qaeda in Iraq, but the terrorist group didn’t exist in the country until after the invasion. The US invasion has served as a recruitment tool for terrorist groups, as figures show that terrorism rose precipitously in Iraq since 2003.

The war aimed to “free Iraqis” but instead killed at least half a million Iraqis and left the country in total turmoil.

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Who Would be Next ISIS Victim’s ?


How Obama Save her Life


An 26-year-old female American aid worker who the U.S. government believes was alive as recently as two weeks ago, would be next ISIS victims.

“Some Facts About American ISIS’s Hostage *** Female aid worker, 26, has been held by militants since August 2013 ***ISIS has demanded a $6million ransom and release of prisoners ***US female hostage’s name is being kept secret for security reasons unless White House chief of staff Denis McDonough revealed the first name of a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped by ISIS in August 2013, whose identity has been kept secret for safety reasons”

The brutal killing of a Jordanian pilot means that military force may be the only way of freeing captives in Syria — including a 26-year-old American aid worker, Foreign Policy reports.

Barack Obama’s administration has been bitterly divided for months about if, or how, to negotiate with the ISIS who has held hostages from the United States, Britain, Japan, and an array of other countries. European countries like France and Germany were able to effectively buy the lives of their captives by allegedly paying the group multimillion-dollar ransoms.

The Jordanian government, meanwhile, set a new precedent this week by publicly agreeing to the ISIS’s demands that it release a female terrorist from the country’s death row as part of a hostage trade.

The bloody failure of Amman’s attempts to bargain with the ISIS means that the United States may have no real options, short of military force, for winning the release of the aid worker, whom Foreign Policy has refused to identify at the request of her family.

A picture taken on November 5, 2012 in Aleppo shows US freelance reporter James Foley, who was kidnapped in war-torn Syria six weeks ago and has been missing since, his family revealed on January 2, 2013. Foley, 39, an experienced war reporter who has covered other conflicts, was seized by armed men in the town of Taftanaz in the northern province of Idlib on November 22, according to witnesses. The reporter contributed videos to Agence France-Presse (AFP) in recent months. AFP PHOTO

The militants haven’t shown any willingness to seriously negotiate ransom terms for American hostages — its initial demand for American journalist James Foley was a sky-high $132.5 million — and they have also now rebuffed the one government willing to openly bargain with the group.

The ISIS could choose to release her as an act of mercy, in part to deflect the widespread outrage sparked by the pilot’s murder, and it’s possible that an intermediary like Qatar could help broker an agreement with the group.

Neither seems particularly likely, however, and no talks are known to be taking place.

That effectively leaves the woman’s fate in the hands of the U.S. military’s most elite special operations forces, which would be charged with finding her and then mounting a high-risk mission to bring her back.

A former officer with the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) said that, even with fully accurate intelligence on the woman’s location, a rescue mission’s chance of success would be “less than 50 percent.”

“It’s possible that an intermediary like Qatar could help broker an agreement with the group to free American hostage.”

Pulling off a rescue mission would be fiendishly difficult. A JSOC task force spearheaded by dozens of Delta Force operators mounted a risky operation near Raqqa, Syria, in the early hours of July 3, 2014, to try to rescue American hostages Foley and Steven Sotloff. The team had trained for weeks, and the raid went off without a hitch. By the time the operators reached the target, however, the hostages were gone. Some U.S. officials believe the men may have been moved less than 72 hours before the failed raid. Both Foley and Sotloff were later beheaded.

As that failure indicates, the success of any rescue mission requires exquisitely accurate intelligence on the hostage’s location, which the United States does not appear to have in the case of the ISIS’s hostages.

After the release of the video that showed the terrorist group killing Kasasbeh by burning him alive, the Defense Department’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, told reporters on Feb. 3 that the United States had worked with Jordan to locate Kasasbeh, without success.

However, the United States has apparently received some recent information about the American woman still being held hostage.

“The intelligence official said it’s believed that the ISIS now holds fewer than 20 hostages from around the world.”

senior U.S. intelligence official said there was a specific reason as recently as two weeks ago to believe that she was still alive.

The official refused to say the reason, but said the issue of how to secure her release has been the topic of intense discussions within the Obama administration in recent days.

Among the options, the intelligence official said, is a military raid similar to the one last July that was too late to rescue the two hostages, who had been moved by the time the helicopters bearing Delta operators arrived.

“The intelligence official said it’s believed that the ISIS now holds fewer than 20 hostages from around the world”

But the administration is divided on whether the families of hostages should have a say beforehand about, or even the ability to veto, a military rescue mission. Chastened by another failed JSOC rescue attempt — a December mission in Yemen, during which al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula killed American photojournalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie as JSOC operators closed in — U.S. officials have been hesitant to try again in Syria, where the American woman is believed to be held, the official said.

The intelligence official said it’s believed that the ISIS now holds fewer than 20 hostages from around the world. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the internal discussions.

In the Iraq War, if JSOC received intelligence on a target, “we probably had been there, we knew all about it, we had people in there, we had foundational logic … and could launch these things at a moment’s notice,” the former JSOC officer said. “It was a battle drill.”

Syria, he said, is a different situation entirely. “If you go into Syria, one, you’ve got to worry about the Syrians,” he said. “Then you’ve got to worry about ISIS and deal with them. And we don’t have anybody on the ground, so everything’s got to be from the air.”

The former JSOC officer suggested that the best hope for success in such a mission might be to have operators conduct a night free-fall parachute jump into a drop zone that was offset from the target building and have them move stealthily to the assault while holding the helicopters that would be used to fly the force back out of Syria as far from the target as possible until the last possible moment. “As soon as the aircraft cross the border, everyone’s tweeting, ‘Here they come,’” he said. “So the information age has killed cross-border helo ops,” he said.

pictures of the stealthy helicopter used in the raid to take out Osama bin Laden

Even stealthy helicopters such as those that conducted the raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden are no guarantee against this 21st-century dynamic, he said. “The stealth is for the radar,” he said. “You can still hear the helicopters.”

The Jordanian pilot’s fate thus portends an ill future for the remaining American hostage, the former officer said. “It’s bad news for her,” he said. “It’s not if, it’s when.”


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The war on leaks has gone way too far when journalists’ emails are under surveillance


The outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers … is an attack on freedom of the press itself. WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers. Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts. The tactics used against WikiLeaks by the Justice Department in their war on leaks [are] also used against mainstream news organizations. For example, after the Washington Post revealed in 2013 the Justice Department had gotten a warrant for the personal Gmail account of Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010 without his knowledge. Despite the ongoing legal pressure, WikiLeaks has continued to publish important documents in the public interest.

Note: In recent years, Wikileaks’ radical transparency has made draft texts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership public, and uncovered a secret CIA report that suggests the US government’s policy of assassinating foreign ‘terrorists’ does more harm than good. So who is the real problem here?


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How America’s death penalty murders innocents


The evidence is in: the US criminal justice system produces wrongful convictions on an industrial scale – with fatal results
Texas death row
 Death row unit in Huntsville, Texas. Photograph: Greg Smith/Corbis

The US criminal justice system is a broken machine that wrongfully convicts innocent people, sentencing thousands of people to prison or to death for the crimes of others, as a new study reveals. The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have compiled a new National Registry of Exonerations – a database of over 2,000 prisoners exonerated between 1989 and the present day, when DNA evidence has been widely used to clear the names of innocent people convicted of rape and murder. Of these, 885 have profiles developed for the registry’s website,

The details are shocking. Death row inmates were exonerated nine times more frequently than others convicted of murder. One-fourth of those exonerated of murder had received a death sentence, while half of those who had been wrongfully convicted of rape or murder faced death or a life behind bars. Ten of the inmates went to their grave before their names were cleared.

The leading causes of wrongful convictions include perjury, flawed eyewitness identification and prosecutorial misconduct. For those who have placed unequivocal faith in the US criminal justice system and believe that all condemned prisoners are guilty of the crime of which they were convicted, the data must make for a rude awakening.

“The most important thing we know about false convictions is that they happen and on a regular basis … Most false convictions never see the light of the day,” said University of Michigan law professors Samuel Gross and Michael Shaffer, who wrote the study.

“Nobody had an inkling of the serious problem of false confessions until we had this data,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University.

The unveiling of the exoneration registry comes days after a groundbreaking study from Columbia law school Professor James Liebman and 12 students. Published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, the study describes how Texas executed an innocent man named Carlos DeLuna in 1989. DeLuna was put to death for the 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a young woman, at a gas station. Carlos Hernandez, who bragged about committing the murder and bore a striking resemblance to DeLuna, was named at trial by DeLuna’s defence team as the actual perpetrator of the crime. But DeLuna’s false conviction is merely the tip of the iceberg, as the database suggests.

Recently also, Charlie Baird, a Texas judge, was prepared to issue an order posthumously exonerating Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the 1991 arson-related deaths of his three young daughters. Based upon “overwhelming, credible and reliable evidence”, Baird concluded Willingham had been wrongfully convicted; this in addition to a jailhouse witness who recanted his testimony, and scientists who challenged the evidence at trial that the fire that destroyed the Willingham home was caused by arson. Baird was blocked by a state appeals court from issuing the order before he left the bench to pursue private practice.

And again in Texas, lawyers for Kerry Max Cook, a former death row prisoner who was wrongfully convicted of a 1977 murder in East Texas, claim that the district attorney in the case withheld in his possession the murder weapon and biological evidence in the case.

In 2012, the American death penalty has reached a crossroads. Public support for executions has decreased over the years, with capital punishment critics citing its high cost, failure to deter crime, and the fact that the practice places the nation out of step with international human rights norms. Last year, the US ranked fifth in the world in executions, a member of a select club of nations that includes China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Further, in the US states that have repealed the death penalty in recent years – including New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois and, most recently, Connecticut – the killing of the innocent has been cited as a pivotal factor in favor of abolition.

Meanwhile, thanks to an EU embargo on lethal injection drugs to the US, states that practice capital punishment are faced with a shortage of poison to execute prisoners. Some have resorted to purchasing unapproved drug supplies on the black market, or using different chemicals altogether. For example, Ohio has abandoned its three-drug protocol for executions in favor of a single drug called pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to euthanize animals. And Missouri has decided to execute prisoners using propofol, a surgical anesthetic implicated in Michael Jackson’s death.

Apparently desperate and lacking in options to kill, these states would be better-served by joining the civilized world and devoting their efforts to end the death penalty, rather than find new methods to satisfy their bloodlust – which, as the new evidence makes abundantly clear, cannot but cause them to execute innocent citizens. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 140 men and women have been released from death row since 1973 due to innocence. That death row inmates are exonerated much more often than other categories of prisoner – even when a person’s life is at stake – should shatter anyone’s faith in the presumed infallibility of the court system.

It is now transparent to the public that, at best, the application of the death penalty is rife with human error and incompetence. At worst, we know there is prosecutorial misconduct: that the courts shelter and nurture officials who are rewarded for gaming the system by career advancement, rather than determining true guilt or innocence and ensuring that justice is done.

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Wake Up America: Prisons, Privatization, Patronage


The New York Times

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates.

It’s a terrible story. But, as I said, you really need to see it in the broader context of a nationwide drive on the part of America’s right to privatize government functions, very much including the operation of prisons. What’s behind this drive?

You might be tempted to say that it reflects conservative belief in the magic of the marketplace, in the superiority of free-market competition over government planning. And that’s certainly the way right-wing politicians like to frame the issue.

But if you think about it even for a minute, you realize that the one thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn’t any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency.

And, sure enough, despite many promises that prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — “have simply not materialized.” To the extent that private prison operators do manage to save money, they do so through “reductions in staffing patterns, fringe benefits, and other labor-related costs.”

So let’s see: Privatized prisons save money by employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly. And then we get horror stories about how these prisons are run. What a surprise!

So what’s really behind the drive to privatize prisons, and just about everything else?

One answer is that privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing, in which governments avoid recording upfront expenses (or even raise money by selling existing facilities) while raising their long-run costs in ways taxpayers can’t see. We hear a lot about the hidden debts that states have incurred in the form of pension liabilities; we don’t hear much about the hidden debts now being accumulated in the form of long-term contracts with private companies hired to operate prisons, schools and more.

Another answer is that privatization is a way of getting rid of public employees, who do have a habit of unionizing and tend to lean Democratic in any case.

But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?

Now, someone will surely point out that nonprivatized government has its own problems of undue influence, that prison guards and teachers’ unions also have political clout, and this clout sometimes distorts public policy. Fair enough. But such influence tends to be relatively transparent. Everyone knows about those arguably excessive public pensions; it took an investigation by The Times over several months to bring the account of New Jersey’s halfway-house-hell to light.

The point, then, is that you shouldn’t imagine that what The Times discovered about prison privatization in New Jersey is an isolated instance of bad behavior. It is, instead, almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.

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Company’s Struggles Highlight Challenges of Inmate Care


Months after he landed in Florida’s Manatee County Jail, Jovon Frazier’s pleas for [medical care] were met mostly with Tylenol. “I need to see a doctor!” he wrote on his eighth request form. Four months later, after Frazier’s 13th request resulted in hospitalization and doctors quickly diagnosed bone cancer, his arm had to be amputated, according to a lawsuit filed by his family. But the cancer spread and Frazier died in 2011, months after his release. As an inmate, his medical care had been managed … by a private company under contract. Corizon, whose responsibility for 345,000 inmates at prisons and jails in 27 states makes it the country’s biggest for-profit correctional health provider, is just one of many firms using a similar model to vie for the billions of dollars states and counties spend on prisoner care. The growth of the for-profit prison care industry raises questions. Some critics say privatization, itself, is a faulty strategy, regardless of which company is hired. “The problem is a structure that creates incentives to cut corners and deny care to powerless people that have no other options,” said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. [Corizon] generated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2013 and is owned by a Chicago private equity management firm.

Note: The above article shows that lawsuits and investigations in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, and New York have all uncovered escalating inmate deaths related to Corizon’s for-profit medical services. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about systemic corruption in the prison industry.


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VIDEO: State Department Discusses Banning Alternative Media Outlet


The “dynamic, truthful opinion” offered by US media has taught Americans not to trust RT and RT America, leaving the network with a “tiny, tiny audience,” according to veteran State Department official Victoria Nuland.

(ANTIMEDIA) The US State Department has openly discussed shutting down RT, the Russian news network. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was asked about the idea of shutting the company down at a meeting at the Brookings Institute. She said no, paying lip service to the Freedom of Speech, but citing RT’s limited reach as the real reason.

The incident goes to demonstrate exactly how much censorship exists in the United States. RT broadcasts a narrative that is undoubtedly pro-Russian. Now that the pro-Russian narrative is at odds with the Pro-US narrative, the government is willing to openly discuss simply shutting off American access to the network.

This isn’t the first time that RT was targeted by government officials. The Chair of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors equated RT to terrorist groups when he said:

“We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram.”

Why would such a question be asked of a State Department official to begin with? Because the US State Department is responsible for large portions of America’s propaganda efforts.

This is the United States of America. We are supposed to have a free press, but if you push a point of view contrary to the government’s, you’re likely to lose your broadcasting license. Regimes in the past held book burnings to remove unfavorable opinions from circulation. The US government doesn’t need to be so boorish. They simply remove the book from libraries or revoke the broadcasting license of the outlet that won’t read the government’s script.

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Democrats Vexed About Naziyahu’s Involvement In U.S. Lawmaking

Boehner has defended his decision, saying the House is an equal branch of government and has the right to invite the Zio-Nazi leader to “talk to the members of Congress about the serious threat that Iran poses and the serious threat of radical Islam.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is still peeved over Republicans’ decision to ask the leader of Israel — an archenemy of Iran — to address Congress in March right in the middle of delicate negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Asked Friday if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be well-advised to speak out in favor of heavier sanctions on Iran somewhere other than a joint meeting of Congress, Pelosi said “the opportunities are great,” and noted that the Israeli leader often appears on Sunday talk shows in the U.S.

She also was asked if most House Democrats would attend a Netanyahu speech to Congress. “I don’t know,” Pelosi replied.

“With all the respect in the world for the prime minister, and all the love in the world for the state of Israel, I don’t know that even everyone in Israel is supportive of the invitation,” she told journalists at a Democratic retreat in Philadelphia.

Netanyahu has been an outspoken critic of the international efforts to negotiate a deal with Iran, which does not recognize the Jewish state, and supports anti-Israeli militants like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

He’s sensitive, though, to Israel’s important relationship with the United States.

This week, Netanyahu called Pelosi, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, in hopes of blunting their opposition to the invitation he got from House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress.

Congressional aides say the calls so far have not changed the minds of the senior Democrats, who think the invitation turns sensitive international negotiations to reach an agreement that would prevent Iran from having the capability to develop a nuclear weapon into a partisan ploy.

They say none of the Democratic leaders who spoke with Netanyahu on the phone asked the Israeli leader not to speak to Congress on March 3.

The timing of the speech is at issue too.

March 3 is just 21 days ahead of when the U.S. and its international partners are supposed to have reached a framework agreement with Iran — one that would provide an outline for a more comprehensive deal set to be finalized by the end of June.

Senate Democrats this week offered to withhold their support for legislation that would levy more sanctions on Iran until after March 24, and only then if it doesn’t look like a final deal is going to materialize. Netanyahu’s speech, in which he likely would reiterate his opposition to Iran, would be broadcast from Capitol Hill just as negotiators were trying to wrap up the framework.

Boehner has defended his decision, saying the House is an equal branch of government and has the right to invite the Israeli leader to “talk to the members of Congress about the serious threat that Iran poses and the serious threat of radical Islam.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., doesn’t see it that way. In a statement Friday, Nadler criticized Boehner, saying he had “demonstrated that he is willing to play childish games with our most serious questions of war and peace, and is equally willing to put partisan advantage over Israel’s security.”

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Saudi Arabia In The Twitter Trap: Classified Security Documents Leaked

The Mufti of Saudi Arabia was right on the mark when he recently said that Twitter was a source of “evil” and a “scourge” for his kingdom. Secret Saudi documents from the interior and defense ministries were leaked on Twitter on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama meets new Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. The president and first lady have come to expresses their condolences on the death of the late Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

New documents reveal much about the Saudi government’s efforts to spy on its citizens and monitor their accounts, as well as details on arrest warrants and detention of individuals who called for political reform, and the “royal hysteria” over otherwise unremarkable articles published online.

Saudi Arabia being a police state won’t come as news to most people. What is new, however, is that the public can now examine the kingdom’s administrative mechanisms for spying and surveillance — thanks to classified documents leaked on social media sites.

A twitter account called Monaseron” posted the documents on Tuesday. The account claimed that the set of documents came from the Saudi ministries of interior and defense.

The documents are signed and sealed by official bodies. One such cable (bearing the number 3567 and the date 03/03/1435 AH – 2014 AD) is addressed from the General Directorate of Investigations to the General Directorate of Information. The document is a statement of “the most important identifiers on social networking sites that we follow up: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.” The cable is signed by senior liaison officer Major-General Abed bin Mohammed al-Hoyarini.

Another document, titled confidential and urgent cable, mentions a Saudi citizen named Ahmed bin Amer al-Sanusi (numbered 5/272). The General Investigations here notifies Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef of the danger posed by this citizen. But for what crime? “He called for freedom of expression and opinion, and for the Saudi government not to interfere in this.” Apparently, to the Saudi authorities, this is an unforgivable infraction.

Another “sin” committed by Sanusi, according to the cable, was that he dared to say, in a video he posted on YouTube, “The Saudi government accuses lawyers, who defend detainees, of rebelling against the rulers.”

But is there anyone in the world who does not know this? What recently happened to blogger Raif al-Badawiand Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in the court system, and to their lawyers, is but a small example of this overarching, repressive process.

Sanusi was also accused of “calling for political reform and a constitutional monarchy.” As a first measure against him, the General Investigations noted that Sanusi’s name was placed on a list of people to be summoned once they return to Saudi Arabia. Sanusi is currently in the United States, where he is working and studying, so “his activities will be monitored and those influencing or supporting him will be identified to clarify his situation,” as the cable disclosed.
It does not end there. The General Investigations recommended contacting the Education Minister Khaled al-Faisal to take the necessary measures, including suspending his scholarship “given his clear ingratitude to his homeland and his affronts to the policies of the kingdom.”

A third cable came from the Directorate of Investigations – General Administration for International Cooperation, addressed to the Minister of Interior (Numbered 30906 and dated 10/5/1435 AH). The cable is about Saudi citizen Abdel-Rahman Ali Ahmed al-Assiri.

Assiri is on a scholarship to study in the United States — or was, at least. Now, “funding and insurance for him have been cancelled.” For what reason or crime, this time? Saudi spies apparently found an online video of the Saudi citizen in question, in which he supported Saud Mardi al-Harbi, Abdul-Aziz Mohammad al-Dosari, and Abdullah Mabrouk al-Ghamdi in demanding their rights. “He also attacked rulers (may God preserve them) and described the appointment of HRH Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz as deputy crown prince from the result of bribery.”

Another cable bearing the number 34962 from the Financial Investigations Department is addressed to the Ministry of Interior. The cable includes information on financial transactions involving citizens and residents, without mentioning any particular suspicions.

Other documents mention wiretapping citizens’ phone conversations in detail. Saudi citizen Zuhair Katbi committed “treason” because he told his wife on the phone that he was fed up of life in the kingdom and was thinking of seeking political asylum in Germany.

In cable number 35976 dated 1/6/1435 AH, the government’s eavesdropper listened in on another phone conversation between Zuhair and another citizen named Khaled Nahhas.

During the conversation, Zuhair apparently said that he refuses the appointment of the deputy crown prince, and that the visit by US President Barack Obama was good for the safety and security of the kingdom. Interestingly, the General Directorate of Operations of the Interior Ministry, in reference to the latter opinion, states in the cable that the citizen in question made some positive remarks.

In other words, the kingdom loves Obama, and expects its citizens love Obama as well. Wahhabism and Obama’s orders are easily reconcilable in Saudi.

Nevertheless, Zuhair will be thrown into jail for two years. Previously, he had received amnesty after pledging to abandon his previous ways (i.e. voicing criticism), because “his writings inflame the public opinion and go against the orientations of the state.”

A document (statement No. 4) contains 29 names of people who travelled to Qatar over the past three years. It seems that travelling to Qatar is cause for suspicion, to Saudi authorities. In addition, a list (statement No. 5) contains the names of Saudi princes who have Twitter accounts. There are 15 princes and princesses who use Twitter, that “evil scourge” (Saudi Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh).

As might have been expected, the spies in statement No.2 made a list of residents accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, numbering 27.

A document signed “for presentation to the honorable noble office,” contains a “dangerous” cable dispatched from the officer of Defense Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz (the new king) to the head of General Intelligence, with a copy for the head of the Royal Court. The cable says, “We learned from the competent authority at the Ministry of Defence that the French website Intelligence Online published two articles whose gist is: Paris downplays the importance of the Saudi grant to the Lebanese army. The kingdom declared it would send military aid to the Lebanese army, and less than two weeks later, Emmanuel Bonne, the French president’s Middle East adviser, visited Lebanon and met the political adviser to Hezbollah Ammar Moussawi. The sources pointed out that Hezbollah officials, during the meeting, recalled that the kingdom is not a neutral party in the Lebanese scene, and that Riyadh must give this grant directly to Lebanon.”

The cable continues, “The sources added that Bonne’s visit was not entirely successful. (At a later time), the French Chief of Staff Admiral Édouard Guillaud visited Lebanon to discuss the details of the grant. The army presented a working plan to be implemented in two stages: A- Establishing a new military infrastructure that would include hospitals, shelters, air bases, naval bases, and communications systems. B- new weapons systems.”

The other article of concern to the Saudi Ministry of Defense mentioned that Saudi intelligence relied on Pakistani intelligence to train jihadists who go to fight in Syria.

In other words, the current king (former crown prince) was concerned last year with two articles published on a website, and decided that this (public and widely published) information should be passed urgently to the late king, interior minister, and intelligence chief.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Horror.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, USA0 Comments

Obama to Reverse Defense Spending Limits In 2016 Budget


US President Barack Obama was planning to undo cuts on defense and other domestic programs as part of his budget for 2016, the White House said Thursday.

Obama’s main goal is to freeze the so-called “sequester,” a series of automatic cuts which would reduce spending by $1 trillion (roughly 884 billion euros) by 2021 if left unchecked. The sequester came into effect as part of an uneasy compromise between Republicans and Democrats in a budget dispute that shut down the US government for just over two weeks in October 2013.

“The president believes we should end the era of manufactured crises and mindless austerity,” the White House said in a statement.

More funding for defense
Obama was expected to formally announce his plans at a meeting with Congressional Democrats on Thursday in Philadelphia.

“The president’s budget will fully reverse those cuts for domestic priorities and match those investments dollar-for-dollar with the resources our troops need to keep America safe,” news agency AFP quoted a White House official as saying.

The fiscal budget for 2016 would be released on Monday, with a proposal to increase spending by seven percent over limits set in 2013. The budget would propose a $530-billion budget for non-defense discretionary spending, around $37 billion above the 2013 cap, and $561 billion in defense outlays, $38 billion above the earlier limit.

The projected financial estimates for 2016 were also expected to boost funding for infrastructure and research on medicine and antibiotic resistant bacteria. Obama was also planning to outline proposals like guaranteeing paid sick leave and making community college free for some students, as promised in his recent State of the Union address.

Obama takes on Republicans
Obama’s aides believe that rising confidence in the US economy, reduction in federal deficits and falling gas prices and unemployment rates gave Obama the wiggle room to go ahead with his spending plans, but the Democrat president could face problems as his Republican opponents control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“If the Congress rejects my plans and refuses to undo these arbitrary cuts, it will threaten our economy and our military,” Obama wrote in an opinion article published in the Huffington Post, justifying his proposal.

However, Republicans are split on the automatic cuts as put forward by Obama, with their heavy leaning towards defense spending; many Republican leaders want to continue cutting government spending, but most also profess to staunchly support the military.

Posted in USA0 Comments

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