Friday, July 19, 2013

DoD 'finds' general for Benghazi hearings

On September 11, 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi was attacked leaving many Americans injured and four Americans (Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, and Sean Smith) dead.  We are coming closer to the one year mark and we still do not know much about that attack nor have there been any prosecutions over it.

Maybe if U.S. President Barack Obama could stop trying to prosecute whistle-blowers and journalists, he could actually prosecute terrorists and criminals?

One of the reasons so little is known is because attempts for Congress to call people have been stymied.  The wounded, for example, were apparently forced to sign non-disclosure agreements.  In addition, a general who might be able to shed some light on the attacks (and the lack of U.S. response in real time) has been kept from Congress with the Pentagon insisting that they could not locate the retired general and that, being retired, he could not be forced to talk to Congress.  Huh?  There is a thing called a subpoena and Congress can issue them if they know where the person is.

In a twist,  David Martosko (Daily Mail) reports:

The U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to make available to Congress a Marine Corps colonel who was in command of U.S. Special Forces in Northern Africa on the night armed terrorists staged a military-style assault on an American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
A series of requests for Marine Col. George Bristol's testimony from Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, had fallen on deaf ears until Friday. The Pentagon had claimed that since Bristol had retired, it 'cannot compel' him to tell congressional panels what he knows about the Benghazi attack.

 Maybe this will bring us closer to the truth?  I certainly hope so.

And this is from U.S. House Representative Frank Wolf:

Contact: Jill Shatzen
(202) 225-5136
Washington, D.C. (July 19, 2013) – In today’s question(s) about what happened in Benghazi, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) asked:
Reports indicate that upwards of 100 terrorists may have attacked the consulate and annex.  After nearly a year of FBI investigations, why has the U.S. not located, apprehended and brought to justice a single terrorist responsible for killing four Americans, including a sitting U.S. ambassador?
Why has the Obama Administration not taken any apparent steps to apply pressure to countries that have refused to allow the FBI access to terrorists responsible for the Benghazi attacks?  Has the FBI had access to any other suspects, in any country, other than their brief interview with Ali Harzi?
Wolf’s reference to Harzi and the blocking of funding to Tunisia goes back to a floor speech he made last December, where he called on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block U.S. aid to Tunisia until the country made Harzi, the only known suspect at the time, available for questioning.  Instead, they let him go.  Today, Wolf said he was pleased the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee reported out a bill which prohibits funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) from going to Tunisia.
Wolf on Tuesday announced his plan to raise questions about what happened in Benghazi during the weeks before Congress breaks for its August recess, noting that the House has just eight days of legislative business before the break.  When it returns in September, the one-year anniversary will be two days away.
Wolf is the author of a resolution to create a select committee on Benghazi, H. Res. 36, which currently has 161 cosponsors – more than two-thirds of the majority party – as well as the support of family members of the victims, the Special Operations community and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents the Diplomatic Security agents who were at the consulate in Benghazi.
For a full list of endorsements, click here.
For more on Wolf’s work on Benghazi, click here.
The full text of Wolf’s remarks is below.
Mr. Speaker, today I ask my fourth question in a series of unresolved issues surrounding the Benghazi terrorist attacks.  With only eight more legislative days before the Congress departs for August recess, I am increasingly concerned that these questions will remain unanswered by the time we mark the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks the week we return from recess in September. 
That is why I continue to raise these questions to provide the American people have a better understanding of how little we really know about this incident, despite nearly a year of investigations in multiple committees. 
Unless these questions are answered by the committees, or rather by a Select Committee focused on Benghazi as I have advocated for more than eight months, the American people will never learn the complete truth. 
Today I am pleased to share one piece of good news before I raise the fourth critical unanswered question: At my request, today the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee, reported out a bill which prohibits funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) from going to Tunisia.   
Last year, Tunisia detained the first suspect in the Benghazi terror attacks, Ali Harzi, after he was deported from Turkey in the weeks following the attack. 
Tunisia, despite being the beneficiary of more than $300 million in U.S. foreign aid, refused to allow the FBI access to this suspect for nearly five weeks.  It was only after Congressional threats to cut off the aid that the government of Tunisia reconsidered its position.   
Ultimately, the FBI interrogation team returned to Tunisia and was allowed just three hours to interview Harzi, with his lawyer and a Tunisian judge present.  Not long after the FBI interview, Harzi was inexplicably released by Tunisian authorities, and his release was celebrated by Ansar al Sharia terrorists.
Consider that for a moment: the Tunisian government kept the FBI interrogation team waiting on the ground for weeks before they ultimately left the country. 
Only under threat from certain members of the U.S. Congress did Tunisia relent and allow the FBI team to return to interview this suspect for a mere three hours.   Then, when the terrorist is released, there is a celebration.  That is shameful. 
Because of Tunisia’s obstruction of the FBI’s investigation, the House has taken the first step today to send a signal to Tunisia and other countries harboring the terrorists responsible for the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi.  This is an important and overdue step – overdue because the Obama Administration could have long ago suspended or terminated its payments to Tunisia or other countries that failed to cooperate with the FBI in this investigation.
This brings me to today’s questions – the fourth in a series of critical unanswered questions: why has the Obama Administration not taken any apparent steps to apply pressure to countries that have refused to allow the FBI access to terrorists responsible for the Benghazi attacks?  After nearly a year of investigation, has the FBI had access to any other suspects, in any country, other than their brief interview with Harzi?
Even more important, nearly a year after the Benghazi attacks, why has no Benghazi terrorist faced any form of justice for the killing of four Americans, including a sitting U.S. ambassador?
Reports indicate that upwards of 100 terrorists may have attacked the consulate and annex. We can’t bring even one of those hundred to justice after a year?
How is it that after nearly a year of investigation and despite the full resources of the U.S. intelligence, defense and law enforcement agencies, we are still unable to locate, apprehend and bring to justice any of the suspected terrorists? 
One can’t help but ask whether the administration really wants justice to be administered and a full and transparent accounting of what transpired on that fateful night.  The administration’s record certainly doesn’t reflect it.  The American people may wonder if the government really wants progress made in this investigation for fear that it will no longer be able to hide behind the FBI investigation as its excuse not to comment on what happened in Benghazi.   
Consider that in May, the Associated Pressreported that “The U.S. has identified five men who might be responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and has enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists, officials say. But there isn't enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama administration prefers. The men remain at large while the FBI gathers evidence.”
If this report is accurate, it represents a stunning abdication of responsibility on the part of this administration to allow known Benghazi terrorists to continue to walk free because the president refuses to use military force to capture or eliminate them.  
When will the FBI be able to gather enough evidence to use in a civilian trial against them if they are denied access by countries because the administration refuses to use the tools of American diplomacy to bring pressure to bear on those countries? 
Additionally, there is a larger question of whether it is even appropriate, if enough evidence is gathered, to bring the terrorists to the U.S. for civilian trial.  Benghazi was a battlefield, not a crime scene, and America lost.  Those responsible should face justice as enemy combatants, not common criminals. 
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, how can any of us really say to the families of the victims or the wounded survivors that the U.S. has done everything it can to locate, capture and hold accountable those responsible?
I want to credit Rep. Kay Granger, the chair of the Appropriations subcommittee that blocked additional funding for Tunisia. I hope this Congress will similarly hold accountable the other countries that obstruct the FBI’s efforts to arrest or interview other suspects.  It is increasingly clear the Obama Administration won’t. 
How many years will it take until any, if not all, of the Benghazi terrorists face justice for killing four Americans and seriously wounded several others?

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

Friday, July 19, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a mosque is bombed in Iraq, both the State Dept and the US Embassy in Baghdad issue statements, the mosque is in Diyala Province -- remember Wednesday's warnings on the violence in Diyala,the Iraq refugee crisis has not ended,  Jimmy Carter's statements on Ed Snowden make news, Bradley Manning's judge refuses to dismiss some charges, reporter James Risen remains caught up in Barack's war on whistle-blowers, and much more.

Good for US State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf who did something unheard of today.

Happy Friday.  Welcome to the daily briefing.  I have something to read at the top, and then happy to open it up to your questions.  The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist bombing inside a mosque today in Diyala province in Iraq.  Attacks against innocent people are reprehensible.  That this attack occurred in a place of worship and during the Holy Month of Ramadan is especially despicable and cowardly and exposes the nature of those perpetrating these attacks.  Our condolences go out to the victims of these attacks and their families.

That is how she opened today's press briefing.  This was not in response to a question, that is how she opened.  Good for Harf, good for the US State Dept.  The Congress is giving them billions for Iraq, they need to be noting the country in some manner regularly. 

While the State Dept was front and center on the bombing, Nouri's forces were otherwise occupied. 
Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's SWAT forces spent the morning forcing Baquba stores to close. Maybe if they had been focused on doing actual work and not terrorizing shop owners,  Iraqi Spring MC wouldn't have been reporting the Abu Bakr Mosque in Diyala's Wajihiya district was bombed?  This morning,  Reuters counted 20 dead and NINA counted at least 60 injured.  It's not as though Nouri's SWAT forces contributed nothing however, Iraqi Spring MC notes that they are preventing concerned Iraqis from making blood donations to help the victims of the bombing.

Yang Lina (Xinhua) reports, "The attack occurred around midday when dozens of worshippers were observing the Friday weekly Muslim prayer at the mosque of Abu Bakr al-Sideeq, in the town of Wajihiyah, northeast of the provincial capital city of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.Steve Nolan (Daily Mail) adds, "The blast went off on the left side of the mosque, which was filled with men and children, as worshippers were kneeling during prayers, said 30-year-old Mohammed Faleh, who was praying inside."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "The bomb had been hidden under a podium from which an imam was speaking in the mosque, located in al-Wajihiya in the largely Sunni province of Diyala, said police officials in the nearby provincial capital of Baquba."  KUNA reports there were two bombings -- the one Tawfeeq has noted and a suicide bomber who detonated outside as people were rushing out.  BBC News notes a suicide bomber as well as does All Iraq News.  So does  Mustafa al-Tuwaijri (AFP) who quotes Omar Mundhir (whose leg was injured in the attack) stating, "I was sitting near the main entrance of the mosque when a huge explosion happened. I was sitting near the imam and the mosque was full of dozens of people when a big explosion happened, and the place went completely dark."

Prensa Latina observes, "The explosion took place in Wajihiya city, Diyala province, with a population of Sunni majority, and came after a series of attacks which have taken the lives of 460 people so far this month, according to official figures."  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) adds, "AP television footage of the aftermath showed the interior of the mosque near the bomb site charred black and shrapnel damage peppering the walls."  AP counts 27 dead.  EFE notes that, among the many wounded, "27 are in grave condition." 

If only someone had seen Diyala as a hotbed, maybe Nouri's forces could have done an actual job.  But alas, no one saw a problem in Diyala . . . Oh, wait.  From Wednesday's snapshot:

NINA reports, "Speaker Osama Najafi called for holding a public hearing on Thursday in parliament in order to deter violators and terrorists in Diyala province and easing tensions to overcome the crisis and stop the forced displacement of citizens in a number of areas of the province."  Alsumaria adds that the Free Patriotic Movement is joining the call as explained by their leader Massoud Zangana who states that the citizens of Diyala are in need of help.

The hearing was held.  At the Parliament's website, they note 236 MPs attended, a number of issues were addressed and, with regards to Diyala Province, they commissioned a group to work on the issue with Nouri's office overseeing the security forces in Diyala Province.  That didn't work out well for anyone today.

The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following:

The United States Condemns Diyala Mosque Bombing

July 19, 2013
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist bombing inside a mosque today in Diyala province. Attacks against innocent people are reprehensible. That this attack occurred in a place of worship and during the holy month of Ramadan is especially despicable and cowardly and exposes the nature of those perpetrating these attacks. Our condolences go out to the victims of these attacks and their families.

The mosque bombing wasn't Iraq's only violence today.  NINA reports a Tikrit bombing left 2 soldiers dead and another injured, a western Baghdad bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Falluja home invasion left a woman and her two daughters injured, a Falluja motorcycle drive-by left one police officer and one Iraqi citizen injured, a suicide bomber to the south of Mosul blew himself up and left one police officer injured, and a Hilla suicide bomber claimed the life of 1 police officer and left five worshipers en route to the Al Mustafa shrine injuredAlsumaria adds 1 corpse was discovered in Ramadi (gunshot wounds to head and chest).  All Iraq News notes that a Mosul suicide bomber left Colonel Ahmed Abbas injured.

Neither the violence nor the holy month has prevented the ongoing protests.  Iraqi Spring Media notes protests took place in Baghdad and in Falluja, in Maysan Province, Mosul and in Jalawla.  These protests have been ongoing since December 21st.

The never ending violence also means that the refugee crisis continues.   Thursday on WAMU's The Kojo Nnamdii Show, his guests were Rajiv Chandrasekaran ("senior correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post"), Omar Fekeiki ("former Washington Post correspondent. He's currently an assignment editor at Radio Sawa"), Naseer Nouri ("a former Washington Post correspondent. He is also the co-founder of Refugee Roadmap, which is a program of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project."),  Jonathan Katz ("a journalist and author of the book "The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster." He worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press in Haiti from 2007 to 2011").

Kojo Nnamdi:  The other men joining us today were intimately involved in that work. Starting with you, Rajiv, how did you come to meet Omar and Naseer, and what kind of work did they do for you in The Washington Post in Iraq?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:   You know, in places like Baghdad, in the earliest days of the U.S. occupation, it's not so easy to go and find capable, talented fixers and interpreters. You know, there are no newspapers you can post want ads in. There's no, you know, online career boards. So it was pure luck and good fortune that led me to both of them. Omar was walking next to the Palestine Hotel when he spotted a Western woman struggling to converse with a group of Iraqis.  Turns out that that woman was a Washington Post correspondent, a colleague of mine. He stepped up to help her. She was so impressed. She brought him to me and said, you should meet this young man, and I hired him. Naseer was a friend of another individual who was working for us. Naseer spent many years as an engineering director at Iraqi Airways. I mean, this is a guy who fixes planes, but Iraqi Airways wasn't flying in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion.  He needed a job. He spoke English. And even though he didn't have a journalism background, nor did Omar, they possessed the necessary curiosity, the English skills and the resourcefulness to be my essential, you know, partners in this. You know, put simply, Kojo, I couldn't have written the stories that I wrote from Baghdad for The Washington Post if not for gentlemen like Omar and Naseer.  They were our essential partners in this endeavor. It wasn't just interpreting conversations. It was helping us to find stories. It was talking our way through checkpoints. It was getting access to government officials. It was opening our eyes to the world, and it was, on multiple occasions -- and I'm sure we'll get a chance to talk about this -- saving our lives, keeping us out of danger.

Kojo Nnamdi:  Omar, you -- your father was a journalist in Iraq, and you have been an English major. So you spoke English. You've never actually spoken with an American before you met Rajiv's colleague, Mary Beth Sheridan, but that's how you started that conversation. But you and Naseer both end up working with Rajiv for The Washington Post almost by accident.

Omar Fekeiki:  Not almost. Entirely by accident. It was -- in my -- I've never thought in my life I'll be a journalist, although I come from a family of writers, journalists...

Kojo Nnamdi:  Your father was a journalist.

Omar Fekeiki:  My father was -- headed the foreign desk at the Iraqi News Agency until the late '70s. But just in my head, what I have learned under Saddam, journalists were not free to write about real stories. They were mouthpieces for the government, or I -- to be fair, I have to say, for the most part, I wasn't interested in being a mouthpiece for anyone. But when I got the chance to translate for The Washington Post reporters, I just realized I was fascinated by the fact that whatever I translated the day before appeared exactly the same on -- in the newspaper the day after. It was my fascination with conveying the true story, of voicing out people's problems to the outside world, then to the readers everywhere, that really got me interested in journalism, and I've never worked in any field since then.

Kojo Nnamdii:  Naseer, in your case, you apparently thought the best thing that you could do with a newspaper was clean windows. Nevertheless, you had gone to school in Tulsa, Okla., and were working in Iraq, but still had yourself a great deal of contempt for newspapers. What drew you in?

Naseer Nouri:  All my life was aviation, even my hobby. I'm a member of the national aerobatic team of flying. All my life was on the air, never on the ground. And journalism -- and I never wrote. I never read newspaper before. I hate reading the newspaper. But the minute that I met Rajiv in his office in Baghdad when he was establishing his office and recruiting the people to work there, I saw in his eyes what he want to do here. I thought this guy, he is here to write the history of my country, and I wanted to be there to share this guy writing the history of my country. First, it's an honor to do that. Second, I wanted to be sure that this history will be written the right way. So I wanted to be there to be sure to give him the right stories, and this is how I started.

 There would have been little western Iraq reporting without the Iraqis who helped western journalists.  In the July 8th snapshot, we noted the New American Foundation's June panel on Iraq featuring Chandrasekaran, Iraqi journalist Ahmed Fadaam, NYT's Michael Kamble and McClatchy's Hannah Allam.

Hannah Allam:  A pet issue of mine is the special immigrant visa, the SIV.   Uhm, you know, Congress has approved since 2008, 25,000 special immigrant visas for Iraqis for Iraqi translators who worked with media, who worked with military.  These were our eyes and ears on the ground.   How many have they issued to date?  Like 4600.  And the program expires in September unless Congress extends it.  So that is something forward looking to take from this because, you know, you still have people -- We were just talking about a mutual friend of ours in Baghdad who sat out that first round because he believed that things would improve and he could stay and he could work as a journalist and 'I'm Shia, this is my government, I voted for these guys, this is my community, I'm fairly safe.  Uhm, my sect is in power, what's there to fear?'  And, here we go again, I just got the news that he too has applied for this -- for this resettlement option.  And to me, that's the greatest tragedy personally of this.  We thought, 'Okay, one day our bureaus will shutter and we'll all go home and the American public's attention will shift elsewhere -- as it has -- but at least we'll leave this legacy of a, you know, of a d -- of a free press, a probing press, an independent press and all but one, two, maybe three?, of our original eight team person staff -- the ones that are still alive, uhm, have -- have, uh, fled.  And they're in Sweden, they're in Ukraine, they're in Atlanta and Massachusettes, DC.  So that's  -- You know, we haven't left that legacy even. And we were a bureau that really took pains to -- You know we would -- in between on slow days -- we would talk about journalism and they would, you know, they had their own blog, Inside Iraq, uhm, they would report, shoot, do all of their own stories and, you know, we really promoted that.  And to what end?  None of it exists  anymore.

As we noted July 8th, Hannah Allam's concern hasn't translated into coverage on her part of even a Tweet.  She's yet to Tweet Kojo's Thursday broadcast (we're covering it tonight because I wanted to give her 24 hours in case she was a slow Tweeter) or Rajiv's article we'll be noting in a moment.  Back to Kojo's show:

Kojo Nnamdi:  Rajiv, interesting is in the fact that after, oh, about a decade or so, what made you feel that it was important to capture the stories of the people who worked with you in the Baghdad bureau of The Washington Post?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Well, a couple of months ago, I was asked to write a 10-year anniversary piece of the invasion of Iraq, and I didn't want to do the predictable thing, going to Iraq and doing sort of a (word?) the government and the legacy of all the billions upon billions of dollars we wasted there and the cost in lives.  I had this amazing relationship and a relationship that I should note I allowed, in some cases, to become detached. Naseer and Omar lived in the D.C. area. I stayed in touch with them, but many others who worked in the bureau have resettled in other parts of America -- Portland, Oregon, San Diego, Phoenix, Toledo, Ohio. And I really...

Kojo Nnamdi:   You guys had 75 people at the first party you have that...

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:  Yeah. That was family members...

Kojo Nnamdi:  I know.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:   ...but we had a lot of people. In fact, one of the editors, senior editors of The Post -- I had a big poster that's blown up in my office -- admonished me, when I came back from Baghdad, not to show it to our publisher because, you know, I was employing...

Kojo Nnamdi:  Is this how you're spending our money?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran:   ...I was employing more people, he was joking, than we did in one of our printing plants. But as I turn my attention to the Afghan War, Kojo, focus on other issues, I didn't stay in touch with a lot of my former Iraqi colleagues, who worked -- who'd come to this country. And I wanted to know how they were doing. Were they thriving? Were they flailing? What was their experience like? And so I set out a couple months ago to track most of them down. And I spent a lot of time with them.  And the result is the 9,000-word piece that will take up the entire Sunday Outlook section on Sunday. And it really is an effort to trace their lives from Iraq to this country and to understand how these individuals who had such great hopes in 2003 at this party that we talked about in November '03. They're all smiling in this great group photo because they thought Americans were going to deliver them a brighter future in Iraq. They were going to rebuild their country, their lives after years of economic sanctions and strife in their country, and dictatorship would somehow, you know, magically improve. And what they have discovered is they faced those years of threats for working for us, they served bravely. But that they're hopes of rebuilding really are now taking place in America. It's not America rebuilding Iraq, it's Iraqis rebuilding their lives in America.

The article Rajiv and Kojo were discussing is "At great risk, they helped The Post cover Iraq. Now, they're remaking their lives in America."  The article is probably the best thing you're going to read in an American newspaper this month.  Here's an excerpt.

Naseer started in the bureau as an interpreter. He tagged along with Post correspondents, facilitating conversations with anyone who couldn’t speak English. After a few months, he became a fixer: He came to us with ideas for stories and set up interviews with Iraq’s new political and religious leaders. By the spring of 2004, we had made him a special correspondent. He would go out on his own to report stories, which we edited and published under his byline.

In April 2006, militants abducted Naseer’s 14-year-old nephew, Noor. When the kidnappers called, Noor’s father offered to pay whatever they wanted. “Use the money for his funeral,” he was told. “We’re going to kill him so his uncle learns to stop working for the Americans.”

The next morning, Noor asked his captors to use the toilet. From the bathroom, he spotted a back door and dashed to it. As he scaled the compound wall, he saw a pickup truck in the rear courtyard filled with bodies, partially covered with a plastic sheet. Once he returned home, his father kept him inside the family house for 18 months.

Naseer, who didn’t want to lock up his three teenage daughters, beseeched my successor, Ellen Knickmeyer, for assistance. She agreed to help relocate his family to Jordan, where Naseer’s son, Saif, who had worked as a driver for the bureau, was training to become a pilot. But the family could not readily obtain Jordanian residency permits. A year later, a U.N. agency referred them for resettlement in the United States.

Naseer, his wife and their four children arrived at Reagan National Airport in May 2008. As they embraced a small welcoming committee of Post staffers — one of them, former Baghdad correspondent Jon Finer, wore an Iraqi national soccer team jersey — Naseer walked up to me and proclaimed, “It’s great to be back in America.”

The illegal war created the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948.  Even Syria's problems have not created the 4.6 million that had accumulated by 2008.  And the refugee crisis has continued to grow.  Largely ignored by the world's media, the flow of Iraqis out of Iraq has continued.  Dropping back to the June 5th snapshot:

"The world has forgotten us.  The west has forgotten us.  Even the UNHCR, they have forgotten us," an Iraqi refugee tells the BBC.  The violence is having many effects including restarting the flow of external refugees.  Matthew Woodcraft (BBC World Service -- link is audio) reports on this development and I've deleted the names of two Iraqi males.  Excerpt.

Matthew Woodcraft: ____ explained how he was new to Amman having decided to make the move from his home city of Baghdad to seek refuge in Jordan just a few weeks ago. "Iraq, she is beautiful," ____ said before exhaling a plume of smoke as he rolled the dice across the board.  "Well, she was," he added, "but we cannot be there anymore.  The religions, it's dangerous. More men arrived sounding lively, with shouts of "Salam alaikum, habibi" -- "hello, my good man" -- and handshakes all around.  Amman is witnessing a new wave of Iraqi refugees as the almost daily bombings across Iraq become ever more bloody.  As the click-clack of dice on wood continued, I spoke with **** one of the organizers of the backgammon evening, in a room away from the other men.  I asked him about the new influx of Iraqis.  This initially jocular man grew serious as he explained, "There are many who are still coming and they cannot work.  They live hand to mouth," he said. going on to tell me how the new arrivals are fleeing with little and in desperate need of help.

In Jordan, Iraqi refugees cannot legally work.  I'm not comfortable identifying by name refugees when it could prevent employment.  Were this a brief story, it would be one thing.  But the Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan during the ethnic cleansing that began in 2006 have largely not returned.  That's also true in Syria where you're far more likely to find Iraqi Kurds returning than Iraqi Sunni or Shia.

Deutsche Welle notes Iraqi refguees that just arrived in Hanover, Germany this week:

They fled violence in their home country and are now hopeful of finding a better future in Germany. Some 100 Iraqi refugees have arrived in Hannover as part of a plan to house 900 Iraqi refugees in the country.
Maria tightly clutches her teddy bear. The little girl bravely smiles at the cameras and new faces before her. For her new life in Germany, she wants only one thing. Time to play.
"It's about the security and future for my children," says Maria's father when asked by journalists about his hopes for his family in Germany. In Iraq, the Al-Samari family didn't see any future anymore.
"It's because we are Christians and are persecuted," he explains. So he, his wife and two children fled. First to Turkey, then to Germany.
The situation is similar for many of the other refugees who on Tuesday (16.07.2013) arrived at the Hannover airport. Ninety-percent of them are Christians. And almost half of them, children.

Lucy Nalpathanchil (Your Public Media -- link is text and audio) reports:

Some veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are closely watching the immigration reform bill as it moves to the U.S Senate for a vote.  As WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the bill calls on extending a visa program for the people servicemembers often relied upon while in combat.

Timothy Coon is a full-time instructor at the State Police Academy. He also splits his time serving in the U.S Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. In 2006, he was deployed to Baquba Iraq and was away from his family for a full year.

 "I literally had a phone call from my daughter's fifth grade science teacher concerning the science project while there was machine gunfire going off over our heads. The Sunnis and Shias from either side of the village were shooting at each other and we were in the middle."

Coon was assigned to a Military Transition Team whose mission was to train an Iraqi Army Unit. He had help from Iraqis like Falah Abdullatif. Abdullatif had been a Colonel in the Iraqi Air Force but after the war started, he had few options to support his family so he became a translator for the U.S Army. Coon and Abdullatif quickly became friends because they had a lot in common. They were the same age, both had lengthy careers in the military and their kids were often on their minds.

Coon: “From then on out, spent a lot of evenings sitting with him in his room talking about the day and everything in it." Lucy:  So he quickly became a battle buddy? Coon:"Sure did he became a battle buddy to everybody on the team.”

For the record, Hannah Allam has not reported on this topic and has not Tweeted on it.  She claims it's very important to her.  But not important enough for her to write about or even compose a simple Tweet on.

Back to today's US State Dept press briefing conducted by spokesperson Marie Harf:

QUESTION:  Okay.  And also, the Latin American media is reporting out about a call that Secretary Kerry had with the Foreign Minister in Venezuela.

MS. HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  And they are saying that he was sort of – I think they were using the word "threatened," threatened him with – okay, if they don’t give up Snowden, well, we’ll do this.  So what’s your reaction to that?

MS. HARF:  Well, while we don’t normally comment on private diplomatic communications, in this case, this characterization of their conversation is completely false.  The Secretary made no reference in his conversation with the Foreign Minister as to what our response would be if Venezuela were to assist Mr. Snowden or receive him.  Instead, Secretary Kerry conveyed to the Foreign Minister that Mr. Snowden is accused of serious criminal offenses and should be returned to the United States to face those charges if he were to come into Venezuelan jurisdiction.  Should Venezuela assist Mr. Snowden or receive him, we will consider what the appropriate response should be at that time.

QUESTION:  The media reports were pretty detailed, though.  I mean, it – maybe it wasn’t characterized as a threat, so to speak, but I mean, they were saying things like, well, maybe we can curtail some sales of gasoline to Venezuela or maybe we can expand the list of narco traffickers from the Treasury Department, or --

MS. HARF:  Again --

QUESTION:  -- I mean, it’s pretty specific.

MS. HARF:  -- I’ve seen those reports.  Again, the Secretary made no reference in his conversation as to what our response would be if Venezuela were to assist Mr. Snowden, I’m categorical in saying.


MS. HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Can you clarify, the Kremlin today said it’s unaware of any plans for Snowden to seek Russian citizenship.  Have you got – and then the Interfax agency actually said that Snowden’s request for Russian citizen will be processed, from a Kremlin spokesman.  Do we know what the status is?  Has the U.S. followed up?  Has the Ambassador spoken to them?

MS. HARF:  I don’t have any update for you on Mr. Snowden’s status on those reports other than to say that we continue to have diplomatic conversations about our position on Mr. Snowden.  That hasn’t changed.  But I don’t have any update on those reports for you.

If, like many, you're confused what the difference isbetween NPR and the US State Dept is, the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show didn't help you.  Her panelists were David Ignatius (Washington Post), Indira Lakshmanan (Bloomberg News) and Bruce Auster (NPR).   Excerpt.

Diane Rhem:  Indira, let's start with Russia, where Edward Snowden has asked for temporary asylum this week. What's the latest? 

Indira Laskhmanan:  Well, the latest is that Vladimir Putin has been put in the embarrassing situation, one I guess he's been in before but of having to make two contradictory statements to the press. On the one hand saying we are not going to allow the Snowden affair to interfere with U.S. - Russian relations and bilateral relations are far more important than any case of the spy agencies. And at the same time saying, we're not going to be pushed around by the United States. And we're not going to bow to the U.S. because we have our sovereignty. It's an obvious reference to how the U.S. forced and pressured other countries to force down, Evo Morales, the Bolivian president's plane when he was flying across Europe to search it in case Edward Snowden was on board since Bolivia's offered Snowden asylum.  So I think where we are right now the White House is trying to send out a signal that it is ready and very prepared to cancel the Obama Summit with Vladimir Putin planned for next month or planned for September if this situation is not resolved before then. 

Diane Rehm:  And, David, what has President Putin said about Mr. Snowden? 

David Ignatius:   Well, he made a fascinating set of comments. At one point he said, "We're prepared to let Mr. Snowden stay here so long as he doesn't harm the interests of the United States." And then said, "That sounds funny coming from me," Putin being an ex-KGB officer himself. You have the feeling, at least I have the feeling that now that Snowden is in Moscow the Russians almost certainly have found a way to get access to the very secret material that he has. I mean, surely Mr. Snowden's had to go to the bathroom for the last two weeks.  That they've got the stuff and they'll make whatever use they want to and I suppose in their interests it's probably better to keep it less decimated now rather than more. 

Diane Rehm:  Bruce? 

Bruce Auster: Yes, that's a really interesting point. Earlier in the week Glen Greenwald who's the journalist who's reported a number of these stories and has been in contact with Edward Snowden, said that Snowden has thousands of documents, not just the ones that we've all seen publically that have been released.  But that he has thousands of others that are essentially the architecture of how the NSA programs work. So the question then becomes, does Snowden have control over the documents in his possessions? The Russians could conceivably just coerce him into handing them over. But there have been reports that there are four laptops that he has in his possession. So over three weeks in this airport it's entirely plausible that A, the Russians get physical access to that computer which would then get them say, his hard drive. Then what they have to do is break the encryption and cyber experts, people who understand computers will argue that it is entirely possible even if the encryption is very good, that those documents could be read.  And so from the perspective of U.S. intelligence services you have to assume that those thousands of documents are in the possession of the Russian security services. 

Diane Rehm: How big a threat are those documents to not only the National Security of the United States but our relations with every other country in the world? 

Bruce Auster:  Yes, there's two issues there. One is we don't know what they are but to the extent the description of them is providing the blueprints for how the NSA actually goes about implementing these programs. That would be, you can imagine, enormously valuable to another security service.  The other question is the sort of geo-political impact of all of these revelations. Putting aside whether the Russians get what's left on his laptop, Even the revelations that we've seen so far have so complicated relationships. There were leaks about cyber attacks against China that were leaked on the eve of a president's summit with the Chinese president.  We see the European nations basically discovering they've been spied upon. So geo-politically there are enormous impacts or at least complications from these revelations. 

Diane Rehm:  David?

David Ignatius:  Well, in this NSA bag of tricks that Snowden brought with him are secrets that are among the most precious the United States has. The question always is when the magician been revealed and how he does his tricks can he still do them and do you want him to do them?  And we are now in a debate in this country over the surveillance and civil liberties. There's no question to me as somebody looking at intelligence that the ability to listen all over the world often in cooperation most security services but not always, is an immensely valuable foreign policy tool for the United States. Much more important than anything the CIA does. 

Diane Rehm:   So the question becomes, has not only Russia but indeed perhaps even China already stolen Snowden's files, Indira? 

No, what the question becomes is how do stupid people get on the air?

What world are these idiots living in?  Yes, it's been White House and State Dept spin as the week wound down that 'Dear Heavens the foreigners could learn all of our secrets!!!!!"  (Despite the fact that foreign governments generally already know the secrets.)  And if Diane can't advance administration spin, she apparently has no reason to go on air these days.

But the reality is that Ed Snowden is tech savy -- and not a pundit on The Diane Rehm Show.

On his hard drive?

I'm surprised Diane didn't ponder the safety of the 'floppy discs.'  It would have made as much sense.  Any information Ed has is either on a hidden flash drive or, more likely, has been uploaded to a secure cloud (and I can guess which cloud immediately).

The segment goes on and on and we could quote it but I'm getting sick of the pompous voices.  So I'll instead just note that at no point are the revelations addressed and at no point is anyone voicing  concern for Ed.  NPR remains the previously unknown north wing of the White House.  What a sad day for journalism.

Hours before the program aired live, Alfred James (Guardian Express) reported that NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden's actions were on the radar of a former US president:

“America no longer has a functioning democracy,” said former President Jimmy Carter. The former President was criticizing the NSA program exposed by Edward Snowden. He made his remarks discussing the intelligence service, and condemning its actions. 
Edward Snowden’s revelations are proving useful, said Carter, because “they inform the public.” 
Mr. Carter’s remarks were made in Atlanta, while speaking before the ‘Atlantic Bridge,’ a non-profit organization to enhance relations between the United States and Germany.
Were you doing a public affairs program on Friday and feeling the need to note Ed Snowden, surely part of the story would be that a former US president was noting that Ed's revelations were informing the public.  Der Spiegel first reported on the remarks:

Der ehemalige US-Präsident Jimmy Carter hat im Nachgang des NSA-Spähskandals das amerikanische politische System heftig kritisiert. "Amerika hat derzeit keine funktionierende Demokratie", sagte Carter am Dienstag bei einer Veranstaltung der "Atlantik-Brücke" in Atlanta.

Narayn Lakshman (The Hindu) sounds a cautionary note, reminding that Der Spiegel is the source everyone is working from at this point and no other outlet has offered reporting from Atlanta on the remarks.  Also offering support to Ed?  The head of the ACLU.    Chad Abraham (Aspen Daily News) reports the ACLU's Anthony Romero remarked on Snowden at the Aspen Security Forum:

“I’ve been watching this whole debate about Edward Snowden,” Romero said. “I think he did this country a service ... by [jump-starting] a debate that was anemic, that was left to government officials where people did not understand fully what was happening.”

There is now a vigorous public debate, six lawsuits about the NSA program have been filed, and Congress is holding hearings about the issue, he said.

Diane and her panel were interested in that either.  How very telling. Who would have thought, prior to Barack becoming president, that Dianne, of all people, would turn her back on whistle-blowing?  Decisions like that do have consequences and maybe we're seeing them right now?

Congressional Quarterly's John M. Donnelly Tweeted the latest on New York Times' reporter James Risen:

  1. Dissenting judge in Risen case: "Common sense tells us the value of the reporter's privilege to journalism is one of the highest order."
  2. NYT reporter James Risen will address threats to whistleblowers in brief remarks at annual awards dinner Aug 6 in DC.
  1. Court says NYT reporter James Risen has no reporters privilege to protect confidential source. The ruling:

What's going on?  James Risen has been ordered by the government (which now includes the Fourth US Circuit of Appeals) to answer as to whether or not the CIA's Jeffrey Sterling was his source for reports Risen filed?  Jeffrey Sterling is among the many whistle-blowers Barack Obama has attempted to destroy and imprison.   Sterling was charged in 2010 by Barack and cronies with violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

It's amazing how paranoid Barack Obama is -- is there any reason for these crackdowns other than paranoia.   That's what's led to Bradley Manning's three year imprisonment although he still has never been found guilty of anything.

Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

Had the US government shown the same concern, Bradley wouldn't have had to step up.  Instead, they gladly supported Nouri al-Maliki in torture and that's what Brad's exposures really prove.  This took place under Barack Obama's administration.  When the dots are connected, it's obvious what the White House has so feared for so long.  Brad's in the midst of his court-martial.

Dorian Merina (Free Speech Radio News) reported yesterday,  "Today the military judge in the court martial of Army Private Bradley Manning denied a request from his defense to dismiss some of the most serious charges, including the “aiding the enemy” charge that could carry a sentence of life in prison. Manning faces 22 charges in connection with leaking military documents to the anti-secrecy group, Wikileaks. Manning has said that he leaked the documents in order to 'spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.' The severity of the charge of aiding the enemy could have implications for future government whistleblowers or those seeking to bring information to the public."  Thomas L. Knapp (CounterPunch) weighs in today:

I’m shocked — shocked! — that Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge who ruled in February that Bradley Manning could be tried on  various charges even after being held prior to arraignment for more than five times the absolute longest time specified in the US Armed Forces’ “speedy trial” rules, has now also ruled that Manning can be convicted of aiding an enemy that does not exist.
Yes, you read that right: There’s only an “enemy” to aid, in any legal sense, if the United States is at war, a state created by a congressional declaration. There’s been no such declaration since World War II.
Lind had only one legal duty as judge in this case: To dismiss all charges due to the government’s failure to meet the “speedy trial” deadline. If the United States was, as John Adams put it, “a government of laws, not of men,” that’s exactly what she would have done.

Turning to England where there's news of an inquiry into Iraq.  Wednesday, the UK's Iraq Inquiry posted the following:

The Inquiry has today published an update on its progress that Sir John Chilcot sent to the Prime Minister on Monday 15 July.
As the letter explains, the Inquiry has made significant progress with writing its report.  It has begun a dialogue with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, about material the Inquiry wishes to include in its report covering discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees, Mr Blair's notes to President Bush, and records of discussions between Mr Blair and Mr Brown and Presidents Bush and Obama.
The Inquiry has concluded that it will  be in a position to begin the process of writing to individuals that may be criticised at the end of the month, with letters containing the provisional criticisms to follow at the end of October.  That will be a confidential process.
The Inquiry's final report will be submitted to the Prime Minister as soon as possible after that process is complete and any representations received from individuals have been considered.
The Prime Minister replied to Sir John's letter on 17 July.

The Iraq Inquiry began held public hearings from November 24, 2009 to February 2, 2011 as it attempted to explore how the UK ended up in the Iraq War.  John Chilcot is the Chair of the inquiry. A report was expected some time ago. Of the Blair-Bush letters, The Week notes:

The letters between Blair and President George W Bush were written in 2002 and are believed to show that Blair was offering to support America if Bush decided to attack Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein long before the Cabinet or the Commons gave their assent to the war. And long before the sexed-up report on Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction and phoney intelligence were found to give the invasion a legal fig-leaf.
Chilcot is still battling to stop the correspondence being kept secret

 Christopher Hope (Telegraph of London) adds, "Sir John also wishes to highlight previously unknown correspondence between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown and other communications with US presidents. The Prime Minister said Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, was aiding the inquiry on releasing this information."


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