Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Benghazi questions

September 11, 2012, an attack in Benghazi left four Americans dead: Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Dougherty, and Chris Stevens.  Today Jonathan Tkachuk (Policy Mic) explains:

If someone were to ask you how Ambassador Chris Stevens died in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, what would you say? An informed person would say that Ambassador Stevens died of smoke inhalation resulting from a fire while trapped from within the American consulate. While this is still the official cause of death the actual cause, exactly nine months to the day when it happened, remains unclear. What makes this reality all the more interesting is the source of this uncertainty. According to a recently deciphered March 14 online posting by well known Al-Qaeda bomb maker Abdullah Dhu-al-Bajadin, last year's terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was in fact a botched plan plotted around "abduction and exchange of high-level prisoners." Rather than hold Ambassador Stevens for ransom, the posting claims that the terrorists decided instead to kill him via lethal injection. According to an unnamed Western intelligence official, the purpose of this recent revelation by Dhu-al-Bajadin is believed to be partly aimed at increasing the public scrutiny of the administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks. In addition to garnering negative press on the U.S. government (and thereby increasing its own public profile-a primary objective of any viable terrorist organization), and assuming that the online posting is accurate, there are at least two things we can glean from this revelation.

That was the first I had heard of that.  How about you?  Have you heard about that anywhere else? 

John Hudson (Foreign Policy) notes:

Foggy Bottom's under secretary of state for management is under scrutiny once again. Kennedy's name has surfaced in news reports about an alleged State Department cover up of an ambassador who's accused of soliciting prostitutes. The reports come just two weeks after House investigators hit Kennedy with a subpoena for his role in the drafting of Benghazi talking points. Kennedy's role in this latest snafu is unclear. But a State Department official tells The Cable that Kennedy, who was been pilloried by House lawmakers since October, was not deeply involved.

On Monday, CBS News uncovered documents showing the State Department may have covered up allegations of misconduct by its employees ranging from soliciting prostitutes to obtaining narcotics from an "underground drug ring." According to the CBS, an internal memo from the department's Inspector General says investigations into misconduct were "influenced, manipulated, or simply called off" by more senior State Department officials.

That does not surprise me one bit.  For an entire term, four years, the media refused to provide oversight.  Now things are coming up because you cannot keep the stinking corpses underwater forever.  They will surface.  And all of the skeletons of the administration's scandals are surfacing.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today: 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch calls for an investigation into killings by Nouri al-Maliki's forces, if the US cares about Brett McGurk then they need to start arranging for his departure from Iraq, in the US The War On The First Amendment continues, the ACLU files a suit against the spying, National Intelligence Director James Clapper lies on national television, calls are made for him to be fired, he jokes about the issues that alarm Americans, and so much more.

Starting with The War on the First Amendment, the ACLU announces they are fighting back against government intrusion:

CONTACT: 212-549-2666, 

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.

"This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. "It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy."

The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which was the recipient of a secret FISA Court order published by The Guardian last week. The order required the company to "turn over on 'an ongoing daily basis' phone call details" such as who calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. The lawsuit argues that the government's blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU's phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization's ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.

"The crux of the government's justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone's data now and ask questions later," said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU's National Security Project. "The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country."

The ACLU's 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which authorized the so-called "warrantless wiretapping program," was dismissed 5–4 by the Supreme Court in February on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been monitored. ACLU attorneys working on today's complaint said they do not expect the issue of standing to be a problem in this case because of the FISA Court order revealed last week.

Yesterday, the ACLU and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act Section 215. The ACLU is also currently litigating a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed in October 2011, demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government's use and interpretation of Section 215.

"There needs to be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. "If we don't say this is too far, when is too far?"

Attorneys on the case are Jaffer and Abdo along with Brett Max Kaufman and Patrick Toomey of the ACLU, and Arthur N. Eisenberg and Christopher T. Dunn of the NYCLU.

An interactive graphic examining the secret FISA Court order revealed last week is available here.

Today's complaint is at:

You can also refer to Brett Max Kaufman's ACLU Blog of Rights' postMartha Neil (American Bar Association Journal) terms the filing "the first step in a process that could eventually lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of a sweeping telephone records review revealed last week by a former National Security Agency contractor, the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday sued the Obama administration over its "dragnet" collection of domestic phone-call information."

Some members of Congress are also objecting to the dragnet.  Jeff Mapes (The Oregonian) reports on Senator Ron Wyden's objections and notes this March 12th Senate Intelligence Committee hearing exchange between Wyden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:

Senator Ron Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

James Clapper:  No, sir.

Senator Ron Wyden: It does not?

James Clapper: Not wittingly.  There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect, but not wittingly."

So he lied to Congress, the people's representatives.  Then, on Sunday, he lied about lying in an interview with Andrea Mitchell for NBC's Today:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Senator Wyden made quite a lot out of your exchange with him last March during the hearings. Can you explain what you meant when you said that there was not data collection on millions of Americans?

JAMES CLAPPER: First-- as I said, I have great respect for Senator Wyden. I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked-- "When are you going to start-- stop beating your wife" kind of question, which is meaning not-- answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no. And again, to go back to my metaphor. What I was thinking of is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers-- of those books in that metaphorical library-- to me, collection of U.S. persons' data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Taking the contents?

JAMES CLAPPER: Exactly. That's what I meant. Now--

ANDREA MITCHELL: You did not mean archiving the telephone numbers?


ANDREA MITCHELL: Let me ask you about the content--

JAMES CLAPPER: And this has to do with of course somewhat of a semantic, perhaps some would say too-- too cute by half. But it is-- there are honest differences on the semantics of what-- when someone says "collection" to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.

Oh, so the question caught him by surprise and he misunderstood?  Senator Ron Wyden's office issued the following today:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued the following statement regarding statements made by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about collection on Americans. Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community.  This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions. When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence.  So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance.  After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer.  Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”

Clapper knew the question going into hearing, knew it 24 hours before.  After he lied to the Senate Committee, Wyden  and his staff provided Clapper with "a chance to amend his answer."  He did not take them up on that but let his lie stand.  Then he went on Today and lied to the American people about lying.  Lying to Congress is also know as "perjury" and that's true regardless of whether or not you are sworn in before your testimony.  Perjuring yourself before Congress is a crime.  It's hard to understand how someone who commits a crime -- one of the most offensive in a democracy (lying to the people's representatives) -- can remain a government official -- an appointee who has now lost the public's trust.

Fred Kaplan (Slate) offers, "But it's hard to have meaningful oversight when an official in charge of the program lies so blatantly in one of the rare open hearings on the subject.  (Wyden, who had been briefed on the program, knew that Clapper was lying, but he couldn't say so without violating the terms of his security clearance.)  And so, again, if President Obama really welcomes an open debate on this subject, James Clapper has disqualified himself from participation in it.  He has to go."  Andrew Rosenthal (New York Times' Taking Note blog, Rosenthal is the paper's editorial page editor) also calls out the lying and notes that the issue also came up in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (open hearing) back in 2006 when Alberto Gonzales (then the US Attorney General) was testifying and that Gonzales responded, "The programs and activities you ask about, to the extent that they exist, would be highly classified."  Rosenthal obsevers, "You have to wonder about giving a position of vast responsibility to someone who can beat Mr. Gonzales in dishonesty."

His dishonesty is contagious in the administration.  White House press secretary Jay Carney declared at yesterday's press conference:

It's entirely appropriate for a program to exist to look at foreign data and foreign -- potential foreign terrorist.  But there are procedures in place as the Director made clear, as the president made clear -- both at the congressional, executive and legisl -- and  judicial levels -- that provide oversight of these programs.

Clearly, that is not the case. There is no true Congressional oversight if Congress is being lied to.  And, clearly, Congress was lied to last March.

It's not even just the lying.  It's also the disrespect, the mocking of the American people by Clapper.  He not only lied to Congress, he not only lied to Today, he also lied to National Journal (where he claimed Wyden asked him about e-mails).  But the lies from Clapper -- and more importantly, the disrespect -- just never stops.  Andrea Mitchell explained in their interview that "when Americans woke up and learned because of these leaks that every single telephone call in this United States, as well as elsewhere, but every call made by these telephone companies that they collect is archived, the numbers, just the numbers, and the duration of these calls.  People were astounded by that.  They had no idea.  They felt invaded."  To which James Clapper responded, "I understand that. But first let me say that I and everyone in the intelligence community all -- who are also citizens -- who also care very deeply about our-our privacy and civil liberties -- I certainly do." 

Americans "felt invaded," Andrea explained and he responded he understood and that he cares "deeply" about this issue.  Today Emily Heil (Washington Post) reports:

Addressing the audience at a black-tie banquet on Friday night honoring Michael Hayden, the former CIA and National Security Agency chief, Clapper managed to muster some humor about government snooping, according to Government Executive’s account of the event.
"Some of you expressed surprise that I showed up," he told the crowd, according to GovExec. "So many e-mails to read!"

Americans felt invaded and he's cracking jokes about it.  He's cracking jokes about it in public. Someone that stupid should not be in charge of National Intelligence.

David Jackson (USA Today) reports that internet giant "Google sought permission to disclose more details about another contested NSA program, one that allows the government to collect online information from non-U.S. citizens." 

Strange times in Portland, Maine
Lobsters dancing on the docks
Switzerland's been weird since they unplugged the clocks
Man and a woman in Brooklyn Heights
Each convinced the other's in the wrong
While last year the divorce rate tripled in Hong Kong
If through all the madness
We can stick together
We're safe and sound
The world's just inside out and upside down
-- "Safe and Sound," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's Hotcakes

The world is inside out and upside down these days.  In even the most basic ways.  Take Ed Snowden, the whistle-blower who exposed the programs Barack and Clapper are currently defending, and take Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagi.  By the 'press rule,' Ed Snowden's name is "Edward Snowden."  Stan wrote last night about how the press stripped Glen King of his name and insisted he be called Rodney King.  Ed Snowden is very clear in the Guardian video interview that his name is Ed Snowden.  That is how he identifies himself.  The New York Times identifying him as "Edward Snowden" is not surprising to me.  That people on the left go along with it surprises me.  But it surprises me to read about Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagri today as well.

Or rather, not reading about Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbargi.  Yesterday the US Defense Dept issued a statement announcing "military commission charges have been sworn against Guantanamo detainee Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, an Iraqi national."  Since when does the US government allow prisoners to go by false names?  He was born Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagi.  Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is an alias. Yet if you look at DoD charge sheet, they list "Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagi" as one of his nine aliases.  Yet the US government was previously putting out Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagi as the man's name only a few years ago.  (Click here for the Interpol notice on Nashwan.)

The charges allege that Abd al Hadi, as a senior member of al Qaeda, conspired with and led others in a series of perfidious attacks and related offenses in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2004.  “Perfidy” is an offense triable by military commission in which those who are the targets of attack are killed, injured, or captured after the attackers have “invit[ed] the confidence or belief... that [the attackers] were entitled to... protection under the laws of war.”  The charges allege-- 

                        •  that Abd al Hadi joined al Qaeda by 1996; 

                        •  that, in furtherance of the group’s hostile and terrorist aims, he served as a high-ranking leader on various senior councils that set al Qaeda’s agenda and policies; 

                        •  that he was a significant al Qaeda liaison to the Taliban, to al Qaeda in Iraq, and to other allied groups; 

                        •  that Abd al Hadi commanded al Qaeda’s insurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, during which he supported, supplied, funded, and/or directed attacks against U.S. and coalition forces; 

                        •  that these operations made use of a variety of unlawful means, including attacking civilians, detonating vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in civilian areas, detonating suicide vests in civilian areas, and firing upon a medical helicopter as it attempted to recover casualties; and 

                        •  that Abd al Hadi directed his fighters to kill all coalition soldiers encountered during their attacks, thereby denying quarter to potential captive or wounded coalition soldiers. 

            Following his tenure as commander of al Qaeda’s insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the charges allege that Abd al Hadi continued his liaison role with al Qaeda in Iraq and was ultimately assigned by Usama bin Laden to travel to Iraq to assume a position among the leadership of al Qaeda’s insurgency there.  

            The maximum sentence for these charges, should the accused be convicted, is confinement for life.  These charges are merely accusations.  The accused is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

al Qaeda in Iraq was one of the many gifts of the illegal war.  Prior to the US-invasion in 2003, al Qaeda had not hold in Iraq.  They were at odds with Saddam Hussein, Iraqi leader, and the secular state of Iraq.  The illegal war created a culture in which al Qaeda in Iraq could breed, multiply.  On the topic of al Qaeda in Iraq, Al-Shorfa reports:

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has ruled that the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) should operate as separate entities, according to a letter posted on the Aljazeera website on Sunday (June 9th).
In the letter, al-Zawahiri said ISI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was wrong to declare the merger without consulting or even alerting the al-Qaeda leadership.

AFP adds:

The merger plan has been "damaging to all jihadists", Zahawari said, adding that "Al-Nusra Front is an independent branch of al-Qaida".
Zawahiri ordered ISI and Al-Nusra to "cease all hostilities towards each other" and to help each other "in terms of men, money and weapons".
He also appointed cleric Abu Khalid al-Suri as his representative in Syria to arbitrate on any issues resulting from the cancellation of the merger of the two wings.

The 'damage' has been that Jabhat al-Nusra has had 'funding' issues.  Governments wanting to support them -- the UK, the US -- are faced with questions by their citizens of why is the government supporting people who tried to kill US and UK service members in Iraq?  Kwame Holman (The NewsHour, PBS -- link is text, video and audio) noted yesterday, "The Obama administration could decide this week whether it's time to ship arms to rebels in Syria. Top U.S. officials began meeting today to consider the question. And Secretary of State John Kerry put off a trip to the Middle East to take part in the sessions."

Of course, the 'rebels' aren't really rebels and the main reason for the action be taken to split the two (publicly split, probably not in reality) was that the Iraqi faction outraged many on Sunday when they killed a child.  Hannah Strange (Telegraph of London) explains:

Muhammed Qatta was executed in the northern province of Aleppo on Sunday by the Al-Qaeda front group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. He had been accused of using the Prophet Mohammed's name in an offensive manner, the organisation said.
The group said the boy was working at his coffee stand in Aleppo when he was abducted by three armed men who arrived in a black car, according to witnesses. Qatta's mother said one of the men appeared to be local while the others spoke with foreign accents. The men reportedly abducted him on Saturday and came back the following day, with the boy bearing torture marks.

BBC News adds, "A statement from the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists inside Syria, called the killing a "heinous crime" and said those responsible must face justice."  And people are outraged as Al-Shorfa noted, "On Tuesday, dozens of Syrians demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Islamic court in the Shaar district of Aleppo to demand the arrest and punishment of the killers."   So if outrage wasn't alive over the assassination of a child and if funds weren't at risk, the Islamic State of Iraq would be as welcome in the 'rebel' camp as it was last week and the week before and the week before that and . . .

Supposedly, there's been spill-over violence in Iraq.  It's strange, though, that you can argue that al Qaeda in Iraq is rushing into Syria and doing battle there and that it's also doing damage in Iraq and responsible for the massive increase of violence in Iraq. It was just like October that Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reporting that "now, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago -- from about 1,000 to 2,5000 fighters."  But since when have government claims -- US or Iraqi -- ever made sense or been actually factual? They're in Syria, these 2,500 people, but also in Iraq, they're ripping apart Syria but also taking Iraq to the worst violence in five years. 
Today the United Nations issued the following:

The Secretary-General has been following with concern the unfolding political and security situation in Iraq, including the escalating political tensions and the appalling upsurge of violence that has killed a high number of civilians over the last two months.  He expresses his deepest sympathy to the victims and their families and calls upon the Iraqi Government to do its utmost to bring to justice the perpetrators of these atrocious acts. He underscores the pressing need for dialogue between political blocs in order to overcome the current crisis.
The Secretary-General welcomes all recent dialogue initiatives including the high-level meeting convened by Sayyed Ammar Al-Hakim, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to the Kurdistan Region. He urges all parties to redouble their efforts to ensure that the momentum of national reconciliation is not lost to those groups that strive to reignite sectarian violence in Iraq.
The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations, including the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), to support and assist the Government and people of Iraq in building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country.

Does UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon care about Iraq?  Iraqi social media wonders today and for good reason.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced Martin Kobler will no longer be his special envoy in Iraq but will instead be addressing issues in the Congo.

National Iraq News Agency reports Iraqiya MP Wahda al-Jumaili is stating that this move is "evidence about [Kobler] not being impartial" and, "His duty as an envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq is to show the negatives in the performance of the government and write reports on the popular movement happening in Iraq and transfer them to the United Nations honestly but recently he worked as media spokesman of the government and a reporter who selects some of the events that he transmits to the United Nations with clear bias to the government."  Kitabat notes Kobler is a diplomat with 25 years experience and that his tenure in Iraq began in October 2011 and has been marked by calls, from various Iraqi political blocs, that he be replaced because he was not impartial.  They note he has been criticized for blanket statements about "progress" in Iraq and has failed to note when rights and freedoms were under attack.  The Iraq Times notes that Kobler is expected to leave Iraq in July.  All Iraq News reports a UNAMI spokesperson insists that this move is a normal "periodical procedure."

Is it normal? Is it periodic procedure?  If Ban Ki-moon is so concerned about Iraq and the pulling of Kobler is so 'normal,' why has no one been announced as his replacement?

If it's a normal procedure and the United Nations Secretary-General is concerned about Iraq then surely normal, periodic procedures would dictate that a successor would be picked before a special envoy was pulled out of a country facing daily chaos and violence.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 173 violent deaths so far this month -- so that would currently average out to 17.3 violent deaths each day.  AFP adds that yesterday's death toll climbed to 73.  And today?

Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports 7 Shi'ite truck drivers were kidnapped in Baquba by "unidentified gunmen [who] erected [a] fake checkpoint" and the 7 were then killed; also 4 Shi'ites were shot dead at a Zagenah "fake security checkpoint."  The Iraqi Times notes that 4 shot dead had been displaced (internal Iraqi refugees) who had just returned to their Zagenah home a few weeks before.  Both cities are in Diyala Province.  Both were false checkpoints.  Iraqi journalist Sahar Issa addressed the false checkpoints last week while discussing Iraq with Marco Werman  on The World (PRI):

Sahar Issa:  You will find explosions are targeting mosques and they are targeting commercial areas.  In the neighborhoods where people live, there is fear, there is tension.  At the checkpoints?  There are fake checkpoints where they ask for your name and your i.d.  To tell you the truth, the situation is really quite fearful on the streets.

It was a major break through for the topic which was reported in Iraq but ignored by the world press (and denied on NPR by one BBC correspondent).  After Sahar broke the 'imbargo,' the western press became more comfortable reporting on these fake checkpoints.

Yang Yi (Xinhua) reports, "A roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol in al-Arabi neighborhood in northern Mosul city, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killing two officers and wounding three soldiers, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  Yi also notes  police Colonel Ali Hussein was injured in a Qaiyarra roadside bombing, another Qaiyarra roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police member, an al-Adheim roadside bombing killed 2 "suspected al-Qaida militants," an al-Adheim roadside bombing injured al-Adheim Mayor Mohammed al-Obiedi and "Also in the province, Iraqi security forces killed a local al- Qaida group leader, named Abu Baraa, during a clash with militants of his group while they were manning a faked checkpoint at a rural area located some 20 km north of Baquba, the source added."

National Iraqi News Agency notes a Falluja attack in which 1 Iraqi soldier was killed and two more were injuredAll Iraq News reports a Tikrit bombing left four people injured.  Meanwhile, Alsumaria notes it's being called "a suicide" at the same time that it's under investigation but a Christian woman in Mosul is dead -- she was burned to death.  AFP notes, "Army Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said three militants had been killed and 14 others arrested as part of the operation, which one army colonel said, on condition of anonymity, involved some 40,000 members of the security forces."  Mass arrests and extra-judicial killings aren't justice. 

And Nouri al-Maliki's forces are more out of control than in control.   Human Rights Watch notes today:

 (Baghdad) – Iraqi authorities should immediately investigate evidence that federal police executed four men and a 15-year-old boy on May 3, 2013, south of Mosul. Witnesses last saw the victims in the custody of the federal police 3rd Division, commanded by Gen. Mehdi Gharawi, who had been removed from his post as a federal police commander following claims he was implicated in torture and other abuses but was later reinstated. 
Villagers found the bodies of the five in a field three kilometers from East Mustantiq village on May 11, near where federal police were seen taking them immediately after their arrest. A witness said the bodies had multiple large gunshot wounds, and machine gun shells were found in the vicinity. But photos leaked to the media by a police officer show police officers with the bodies in a less decomposed state than they were when the villagers found them.

“The apparent police role in the machine gun execution of four men and a boy requires an immediate investigation and the prosecution of those responsible,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “That these killings may have been committed by a unit under a commander once implicated in torture shows why abuses can’t be swept under the rug and forgotten.”

Relatives of the victims and residents in East Mustantiq told Human Rights Watch that on May 3 a joint convoy of army soldiers and police from the federal police “Belt of Ninewa” brigade, a unit of the 3rd Division that controls areas south and west of Mosul, surrounded the village and asked residents whether it was West Mustantiq. When they said no, the army left, but federal police swept the village searching houses and barns, and arrested eight people without warrants, including the five who were later killed.

In the US, David Swanson (War Is A Crime) notes Iraq War starter Bully Boy Bush was not impeached and that the US suffers for that today, "But this is the same problem as before.  Making speeches against Bush's abuses was not enough.  Clapping for speeches against Obama's abuses -- even speeches by Obama -- is not enough.  There is a reason why people abuse power.  Power corrupts them.  And absolute power corrupts them absolutely.  Telling a handful of Congress members who are forbidden to speak about it, and most of whom don't really give a damn, what sort of outrages you are up to is not a system of checks and balances or the rule of law."  Also in the US, but we will bring this back to Iraq, hold on for a second or two, rape and assault in the ranks of the military is a "crisis" or a "cancer" depending on which military head spoke at last Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.   Many senators have proposed serious legislation to address the crisis.   Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee,  and Senator Kelly Ayottee have proposed a joint-piece of legislation.  Today, Senator Murray's office notes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        CONTACT: Murray Press Office (202) 224-2834

Tuesday, June 11, 2013                                                     Ayotte Press Office (202) 224-3324




Bipartisan legislation would expand Air Force program and provide trained military lawyers to victims of sexual assault in all service branches


General Dempsey and Secretary Hagel to testify in front of Senators Murray, Ayotte, and Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey has endorsed a key provision in bipartisan legislation they authored – the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act – that would provide victims of sexual assault in the military with a Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC), a trained military lawyer to assist the victim throughout the process.  Building on the success of an Air Force SVC pilot program, the Murray-Ayotte legislation would expand the program to victims in all services to help them through the legal process.


Last week, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing focused on efforts to stop sexual assaults in the military, Senator Ayotte requested an official response from General Dempsey on his position regarding the Murray-Ayotte legislation to expand the SVC program.


In his response, he wrote, “The Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) pilot program, while very new, has shown positive results and provides a robust support program for victims of sexual assault.  Hundreds of victims have availed themselves of SVC services in the Air Force in just the past several months since it was implemented.  Many of those victims who initially filed restricted reports of sexual assault decided to change their report to unrestricted, allowing full investigation of the offenses committed by their assailant.  As the early reports have been so promising, I expressed in my May 20, 2013, letters to Senators Levin and Inhofe that the proposed SVC legislation had merit. I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource.”


During last week’s hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh also praised the success of the SVC pilot program.  In response to a question from Senator Ayotte, General Welsh testified that responses from victims regarding the Air Force’s Special Victims’ Counsel pilot program have been “overwhelmingly positive.”  He testified that he intends to recommend the continuation of the program.


In May, at a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, General Welsh highlighted the success of the Air Force SVC program, saying, “The special victims counsels have helped...typically it's 30 percent, as I mentioned, of our victims who won't -- continue through prosecution, even after making an unrestricted report. So far, the 265 assigned special victims counsels, two have done that. That's a great trend. We must now continue it. One of the other problems we have is that we have never had people who make restricted reports initially change from a restricted to unrestricted at a very high rate so that we can investigate and potentially prosecute those cases. About 17 percent of our reportees in the past have changed from a restricted mode to an unrestricted. Of the victims who have special victims counsel assigned, that number is tracking at 55 percent right now. And it's rising slowly as confidence grows. We have to continue that trend.”


The Murray-Ayotte Combating Military Sexual Assault Act (S.871) takes additional steps aimed at reducing sexual assaults within the military and helping the victims of these crimes.  The legislation would address a number of gaps in current law and policy and would build upon the positive steps the Pentagon has taken in recent years to address this problem. The Murray-Ayotte bill currently has 37 bipartisan cosponsors.


General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will testify in front of the Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday where Senator Murray will ask them to address, among other issues, the tragic epidemic of sexual assault within the ranks.



·         Provide victims of sexual assault with Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process. 

·         Enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat MSA across the Armed Forces and regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rate, number of cases brought to trial, and compliance with appropriate laws and regulations within each of the individual services.

·         Refer cases to the general court martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.

·         Bar sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent.

·         Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC) are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.




Meghan Roh

Press Secretary | New Media Director

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Mobile: (202) 365-1235

Office: (202) 224-2834



Tara Soneshine is the US State Dept's Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and she gave a speech on behalf of the State Dept Sunday in Qatar which I missed until Iraqi and Arabic social media picked up on it earlier today, calling her out for the nonsense in her speech.  Iraqi media especially called her out -- in some rather graphic terms -- for failing to mention Iraq in her supposed speech on the "Muslim communities" -- they mocked her for that as well because most consider it the Arabic world and found her "Muslim communities" to be condescending and, as one poster on Iraqi social media noted, makes great nations sound like tiny areas in a city.  And many saw it as a rejection of the notion of the Arabic world as well. Soneshine insulted the people she was trying to reach.  Great going, way to work that diplomacy.  What an embarrassment.  Here are some of her remarks:

We must reach out to one another over time, embracing our shared values, interests, and aspirations.
And when we talk to people across this region, and in other Muslim communities, it is clear that they share the same day-to-day concerns as all other people, including millions of Americans. They want to live in peace; they want their families to have access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.
The stakes are clear. More than 60 percent of this region is under the age of 30. But as so many people come of age, their career, educational, and economic opportunities are not keeping up. This is unsustainable. If they are to lead normal and prosperous lives, we must work together to support their efforts to pursue the educational and vocational paths that will help them build prosperous futures. What we do now will affect not only them but the children they raise – and the societies and economies they will inherit.

Yes, what the State Dept does effects the future.  And so sending failed nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq Brett McGurk back into Iraq wasn't smart.  That's another idiotic thing Hillary Clinton did and it undermines her credibility on women's issues (unless she wants to come forward and say Barack overrode her on this issue, it's her fault).

I really don't care where Brett sticks his dirty dick, I really don't.  But it is an issue in Iraq.  It's an issue there because, while working for the Bush administration, married Brett couldn't keep it in his pants.  And it wasn't just Gina Chon (fired reporter) who he was sleeping with.  In the US, who gives a damn?  But in Iraq, it matters and don't you dare talk about the stakes and the need to reach out when you send an adulterer into Iraq -- a known adulterer. 

Here's a YouTube video of a man being punished for adultery per a strict interpretation of Islam.  This video is posted to social media on a thread about Brett McGurk.

The US press ignores it but Brett's met with various Iraqi officials (and is billed as an "assistant") over the last weeks in Iraq.  These are reported in the Iraqi press.  There is outrage.  My concern was and remains for Iraqi women.  You can't put Brett back in Iraq and expect Iraqi women to have full participation because to meet with Brett is to risk being accused of adultery due to his reputation.  And women in Iraq don't tend to get lashed for adultery, they tend to be killed in what are termed 'honor' killings.  So Brett is a danger to Iraqi women and to their status.

But turns out Brett's also seen as an insult to Iraq that needs 'correction.'  The State Dept better be sure that Brett McGurk is heavily protected (and they'd be smart to get his out of Iraq immediately) because the threads are containing more and more associations of Brett McGurk and violence.  I wouldn't call them threats, I'd say their suggestions and the suggestions are being toyed with and teased.  But at some point, this changes to threats.  Repeating, the State Dept better make damn sure that while he's in Iraq (hopefully a very brief time), Brett McGurk is heavily protected.  His presence is being seen as an insult to Iraq and as an insult to Islam.

It's not a bright moment for the State Dept currently in any regard.  As CBS News reports, they've got a prostitution scandal that goes back to at least 2011 (yes, that would Hillary's term as Secretary of State) that's been covered up for some time.

Lastly, legendary artist Joni Mitchell was the guest today on Q with Jian Ghomeshi (CBC).  The rebroadcast of that is just about to start (CBC Radio One) as I finish dictating this.  In addition, Jian has posted short videos from the interview as well as three parts of the full interview online.  The three parts come to over 90 minutes (the radio broadcast was an hour and 15 -- with breaks) so there's easily 30 minutes in the videos that didn't make the broadcast.  Those who missed the broadcast of the audio program can click here for the archives.

the washington post
kwame holman
the newshour

sahar issa