On Human Rights, UN Committee Gives US Low Grades for Surveillance, Detention at Guantanamo

Screen shot of CCPR grades for United States
Screen shot of CCPR grades for United States

A United Nations committee, which reviews how countries comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), issued grades for the United States government’s implementation of recommendations issued last year. The committee gave the US low grades for surveillance and detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in facilities in Afghanistan.

The ICCPR is an international human rights treaty. Signatories are supposed to undertake measures to ensure the rights in the treaty are protected in their countries. In fact, since the US ratified the treaty in 1992, the government has an obligation to comply with the treaty as it would any other domestic law.

A committee of the UN, the Human Rights Committee, conducts periodic reviews of countries’ human rights records. It gives countries an opportunity to respond to the committee’s concerns. The committee makes recommendations. It then grades how countries implement those recommendations.

Countries, which are signatories, report to the committee every four years. This is the fourth periodic review of the US.

To understand the grades, “B1″ means “substantive action” took place but the committee still wants more information. “B2″ means some initial action was taken. “C1″ means US replied to UN but did not take actions to implement recommendation. “C2″ means US replied, and the reply was irrelevant to the committee’s recommendation. “D1″ means US did not cooperate with the committee on this recommendation.

The US did not receive any “A” grades. It received a high “B1″ grade for declassifying part of the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA’s detention and torture of detainees and a lower “B2″ grade for investigating cases of unlawful killing, torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, and enforced disappearances, and expediting the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

The committee issued a “C2″ grade for the continued detention of detainees at Guantanamo and in facilities in Afghanistan.

In regards to surveillance, it gave the US a “C1″ grade for ensuring surveillance complies with the treaty, ensuring “interference with right to privacy, family, home, or correspondence” is authorized by law, reforming oversight of surveillance, and refraining from imposing “mandatory retention” of data on “third parties.”

The worst grade given was a “D1″ for failing to ensure persons are able to obtain remedies if they are the victims of surveillance abuse. (more…)

Endless Enemies – How the US is Supporting the Islamic State by Fighting it

From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State to Assad, the US is fighting terrorists of its own creation by partnering with other terrorists of its own creation

By Nafeez Ahmed

Geopolitics is a murky game. Precisely how murky is reflected in the well-worn phrase, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

What happens, though, when you follow that ancient proverb with the faith of a religious believer?

Now that the war on the “Islamic State” (IS) is, ostensibly, in full-swing, the US is making “friends” out of enemies, old and new. Among our new friends is al-Qaeda.

Except they are supposedly not “our” friends, but friends of our allies.

Al-Qaeda, freedom fighters for Gulf monarchies

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are now working to support al-Qaeda’s official arm in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, to re-take Syrian territory from Bashir al-Assad. The strategy resulted in a coalition of rebel groups, led by the al-Qaeda faction, conquering Idlib in April.

The three regional powers claim they are hoping to compel al-Nusra to renounce its relationship to al-Qaeda – but the reality is they are funding the al-Qaeda affiliate without any meaningful guarantee of control.

“Nusra will stay with al-Qaeda unless the other rebel forces are able to unify into one force,” said one al-Nusra member. “[Al-Qaeda leader Ayman] al-Zawahiri says the unification of Muslims is more important than membership in any group.”

According to Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, al-Nusra is “not so different from IS. They want to make an emirate but are looking for the right opportunity.”

Publicly, the official line is that the Saudi-Qatari-Turkish strategy is not directly funding al-Nusra, although the geopolitical coalition is aware that al-Nusra will benefit from the support to Islamist rebel groups.

Privately, a source in the Saudi royal family involved in security policy said that 90 percent of the rebels receiving military and other aid were members of al-Nusra and rival jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, whose founding member Mohamed Bahaiah is also a senior al-Qaeda operative. As much as 40 percent of the rebels’ requirements are supplied by the Saudis, Turks and Qatar, the remainder being self-financed.

The strategy was, according to journalist Gareth Porter, rubber-stamped at the Camp David summit in May. The Gulf states and Turkey would acquiesce to the US-Iran nuclear deal, as along the US would guarantee containing Iranian influence in the region – part of which would involve turning a blind eye to Saudi, Qatari and Turkish support for al-Nusra and other Sunni jihadist factions.

Al-Qaeda, our new ‘moderate’ rebels (more…)

Joe Wilson: What He Didn’t Find in Africa

FDL’s own bluewombat (aka Jon Krampner), whose last literary endeavor in these parts was his December 2012 peanut butter book salon, focuses on politics in his latest effort. On July 6, the 12th anniversary of Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s New York Times op-ed piece “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” blue will release his e-book about the Plamegate controversy that broke out in the wake of Wilson’ op-ed. Blue’s e-book is called “Joe Wilson: What He Didn’t Find in Africa.”

Wilson’s commentary was the first major public attack by an establishment figure on the lies the Bush/Cheney administration used to sucker the US into the Iraq War. It ignited a political, media and legal firestorm and led to the vindictive outing of Valerie Plame, Wilson’s wife, as a CIA undercover spy devoted to protecting the United States from weapons of mass destruction. It also led to the criminal conviction of one of the highest-ranking public officials in American history: Scooter Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty on two counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice and one of making false statements.

Last year, blue conducted two interviews with Joe Wilson, and exchanged e-mails with him, Valerie Plame Wilson and Marcy Wheeler, proprietor of the emptywheel blog and author of Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. He also did, in his own words, “lotsa research.”

The e-book was originally envisioned as the sample chapter for a paper, ink and glue book, a series of biographical portraits of Bush/Cheney-era whistleblowers and dissidents. But even leftish publishers felt Bush and Cheney were old news and passed. Blue, who is nothing if not persistent, then decided to publish it as a 9,000-word e-book.

“’What He Didn’t Find in Africa’ is a good, brief summary of a remarkably complex case,” says Krampner. “In an effort to cover up its criminal wrongdoing, the Bush administration skulked around in the shadows and launched a complex counter-factual counter-narrative about its role in lying us into the Iraq War and violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. This e-book helps arm anyone who wants to punch holes in Bushco’s fabulism about Plamegate with the facts they need to do so.”

Joe Wilson: What He Didn’t Find in Africa” will be published on Smashwords.

The Saudi Cables: Revelations from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan & Egypt

wlogo-smWikiLeaks announced it would publish half a million cables and other documents from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry last week. It released nearly 70,000 files, which the organization’s publisher Julian Assange said would “lift the lid on an increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship.”

The files, in Arabic, have mostly received a minimal amount attention in the United States press. However, multiple independent journalists around the world have been translating the documents to uncover revelations.

Ali Hadi Al-Musawi, who blogs at 1001 Iraqi Thoughts, sifted through the files for important documents on Saudi Arabia’s influence in Iraq.

“A quick scan of the available documents that relate to Iraq reveal three consistent approaches adopted by the Kingdom in an effort to extend its influence in the country,” Al-Musawi wrote. “Financial and political support for Sunni Arab tribes, politicians, and Kurdish actors that are willing to undermine the central government in Baghdad; close communication with Baath Party officers, financial support, and political asylum for families of high-ranking former officials; and regional diplomatic efforts aimed at undermining the sovereign legitimacy of the Iraqi state.”

Significantly, Al-Musawi called attention to a “three-stage plan” proposed by Saudi Arabia to “co-opt” Sunni Arab tribes and Iraqi politicians.

“The stated goal is to undermine the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki and nurture assets that are sympathetic to Saudi Arabia’s policies in Iraq,” Al-Musawi reported. “The cable recommends close coordination between the Kingdom’s foreign ministry and intelligence agency, and suggests inviting co-opted Iraqis on a regular basis to the Kingdom in order to ‘strengthen relations and exchange views and information.'”

A group of anonymous individuals in Yemen are examining the documents for revelations about Saudi Arabia and their country. The group uncovered a cable that shows the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs order the “transfer of $100,000″ to the Saudi mission to the United Nations for a “campaign” to win a seat on the Human Rights Council.

One memo marked “highly confidential and urgent” from Minister of Foreign Affairs Saud al-Faisal and addressed to the Crown Prince suggests the war being waged in Yemen may have something to do with an oil pipeline to the Yemen coast. It referred to a special Saudi commission’s effort to find a naval port for the Kingdom in the Arabian sea through Oman or Yemen. The commission was “made up of senior level members from the Ministries of Interior, defense, foreign affairs, finance, oil and mineral resources, transportation, economy and planning, as well as the presidency of the General Intelligence.” (more…)

Washington in Wonderland: Down the Iraqi Rabbit Hole (Again)

American leadership in the world, writes Bacevich, “ought to mean something other than simply repeating and compounding past mistakes. It should require more than clinging to policies that have manifestly failed. To remain willfully blind to those failures is not leadership, it’s madness.” (Photo: via Pentagon Watch)

By Andrew Bacevich

There is a peculiar form of insanity in which a veneer of rationality distracts attention from the madness lurking just beneath the surface. When Alice dove down her rabbit hole to enter a place where smirking cats offered directions, ill-mannered caterpillars dispensed advice, and Mock Turtles constituted the principal ingredient in Mock Turtle soup, she experienced something of the sort.

Yet, as the old adage goes, truth can be even stranger than fiction. For a real-life illustration of this phenomenon, one need look no further than Washington and its approach to national security policy. Viewed up close, it all seems to hang together. Peer out of the rabbit hole and the sheer lunacy quickly becomes apparent.

Consider this recent headline: “U.S. to Ship 2,000 Anti-Tank Missiles To Iraq To Help Fight ISIS.” The accompanying article describes a Pentagon initiative to reinforce Iraq’s battered army with a rush order of AT-4s. A souped-up version of the old bazooka, the AT-4 is designed to punch holes through armored vehicles.

Taken on its own terms, the decision makes considerable sense. Iraqi forces need something to counter a fearsome new tactic of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): suicide bombers mounted in heavily armored wheeled vehicles. Improved antitank capabilities certainly could help Iraqi troops take out such bombers before they reach their intended targets. The logic is airtight. The sooner these weapons get into the hands of Iraqi personnel, the better for them — and so the better for us. (more…)

Furthering a Failed Strategy, Obama To Send More Ground Troops to Iraq

Critics say that everything the administration is doing in Middle East is making things worse, not better.

By Jon Queally

In a move anti-war critics and foreign policy experts are certain to call simply an extension of a policy that has proved a failure, the New York Times reports the Obama administration is planning to build a new military base in the western part of Iraq and send additional ground troops in an attempt to turn the tide against Islamic State (ISIS) forces who have continued to take and hold ground on sides of the Syrian border in recent weeks.

After recent advances by ISIS that allowed them to capture the city of Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the Pentagon is talking openly about sending what it calls “additional trainers” to bolster the Iraqi army in the Sunni-dominated region that skirts Syria.

As the Times reports:

In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province, Iraq, and to send 400 more American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi. […]

The additional American troops will arrive as early as this summer, a United States official said, and will focus on training Sunni fighters with the Iraqi Army. The official called the coming announcement “an adjustment to try to get the right training to the right folks.”

Though there are already approximately 3,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq, President Obama made headlines on Monday when he spoke from the G7 summit in Germany and admitted that the U.S. did not yet have a “complete strategy” for dealing with ISIS.

However, as Jason Ditz writes at Anti-War.com, the idea to send additional U.S. troops to Iraq was not entirely unexpected,

as President Obama had previously indicated this his primary goal at this point was to speed up the training of Iraqi troops. The new troops are being labeled “trainers,” but are likely to be among those that Pentagon officials are openly talking about “embedding” on the front lines, meaning they’d be sent into direct combat.

As losses have mounted in Iraq and Syria, with ISIS taking more and more cities, the Pentagon has repeatedly rejected the idea that the strategy was at all flawed, and has tried to blame Iraqi troops for not winning more. The US appears to be doubling down on this narrative by adding troops.

But according to critics of Obama’s foreign policy and war strategy in Syria and Iraq, everything the administration is doing “right now is making the situation worse” – not better. (more…)

Former OPEC Official Believes Price of Oil Will Fall This Year

Oil refinery in Philadelphia, PA

Hasan Qabazard, former director of research at OPEC, said the Brent crude oil price will fall to at least $40 per barrel later this year.

Qabazard cited more oil production by Iraq and Iran, along with recovering shale oil, as the reasons why a drop will be expected.

Currently, the Brent crude oil price is hovering nearly $70 per barrel after a sharp drop last year from more than $100 per barrel.

In 2009, Qabazard predicted the price of oil possibly falling, although it rose a few months later.

Still Qabazard is not alone in believing the price of oil will fall as Goldman Sachs reported last May how the price of oil may go as low as $45 per barrel. In fact, analysts at the bank believe there is no equilibrium between the supply and demand of oil:

We find that the global market imbalances are in fact not solved and believe that the rally will prove self-defeating as it undermines the nascent rebalancing,

OPEC recently finished a conference in Vienna, Austria, where the group decided it would not cut supply.

Qatari Minister of Energy and Industry Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada spoke on the first day of the meeting and mostly blamed the drop in oil prices on “speculators.”

Al-Sada also suggested recent conditions were tough for countries producing oil:

The current environment is clearly challenging – and has become a test for both oil producers and hydrocarbon investors,

Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi said early last week the market was stabilizing and the current strategy by OPEC was working:

You can see that I am not stressed, that I am happy,

Meanwhile, Iraq is seeking to increase its crude oil exports to get as much money as it can after the massive drop in oil.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the country’s oil minister, previously told reporters how oil prices would rise to $75 per barrel by the end of this year.

In terms of Iran, Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh said, before the conference in Vienna, how Iran would sell on the market whether OPEC liked it or not:

We don’t need permission from OPEC to return to the market. This is our right, we were limited by sanctions and this is completely normal if we return to the market with the ceiling we had before [the sanctions were imposed],

Moreover, Zangeneh said foreign oil companies were interested in coming back to Iran once the internationally imposed sanctions against Iran were removed.

ExxonMobil hired a lobbyist to “monitor congressional activity” over anything Iran related, although the firm insisted it had done no such thing.

Based on a report by the Energy Information Administration, the United States is estimated to produce even more crude oil in the next few years:

Total U.S. oil production is projected to increase 23 percent between 2014 and 2020. After 2020, tight oil production declines, as drilling moves into less-productive areas,

 

Qabazard may be right after all.

*Creative Commons Licensed Image by pontla  

Elites Abandoned Their Stance Against Leaks to Help Save Petraeus from Suffering in Jail

When David Petraeus faced a potential jail sentence for leaking classified information to his biographer, an array of corporate, military and political elites wrote letters to a federal judge requesting leniency. A number of those people were individuals who have called for leak prosecutions and have used their power to spread fear about the dangers of national security leaks.

The former CIA director and military general improperly possessed “Black Books” containing the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and other classified information, including notes from his discussions with President Barack Obama. He provided Paul Broadwell access to these books after she asked to use them as source material. He even lied to FBI special agents about leaking to his biographer and lied on a CIA “security exit form.”

However, despite the fact that the Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted others for similar conduct, the government did not seek any jail time for Petraeus. The judge sentenced Petraeus to two years of probation and fined him $100,000. Perhaps, this was the result of pressure from Petraeus’ powerful friends.

Thirty-four letters written to Judge David C. Keesler and originally filed under seal were released on Monday. It was the result of a lawsuit led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Letters were written by Tom Donilon, former Obama national security adviser, William McRaven, former commander of US Special Operations Command, Stephen Hadley, former assistant to the president for national security affairs under George W. Bush, Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joe Lieberman.

Graham and Lieberman refrained from commenting on what Petraeus did. Yet, Graham has previously accused the Obama administration of leaking details of classified operations to make the president “look good.” Lieberman introduced the SHIELD Act when he was a senator, an unconstitutional law that would have given the government more power to crack down on leaks.

Feinstein has fought for more criminal investigations into unauthorized disclosures and suggested NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden committed “treason.” She wrote, “As the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a senior commanding officer of the US Army, he understands the importance of protecting classified information. This past experience makes him regret even more deeply his conduct in this matter.”

McRaven said during the Aspen Security Forum in 2012:

…[W]e’re never happy when leaks occur, obviously. I mean, we go to great lengths to protect our national security. Very great lengths to protect our sources and methods. So all of that, we guard very carefully. Unfortunately, not everybody guards that very carefully.

And I think what you’ve seen is the secretary and the president and Capitol Hill are taking these leaks very, very seriously, as they should, and we need to do the best we can to clamp down on it. Because sooner or later, it is going to cost people their lives, or it’s going to cost us our national security.

However, there was apparently no need to clamp down on Petraeus because, as McRaven put it, “Few, if any Generals I know, and I know a lot of them, gave as much, did as much or accomplished as much as Dave Petraeus.” (more…)

MENA Mashup: Conspiracies, Daesh, Iraq, and Syria

Here’s Col. Wilkerson on TRNN

In tallying up the clusterf*ck that is the MENA, we need to delve into the ‘spin’ we’re being spun by the MSM…!

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out today…

NYT Trumpets US Restraint Against ISIS, Ignores Hundreds of Civilian Deaths

The New York Times this morning has an extraordinary article claiming that the U.S. is being hampered in its war against ISIS because of its extreme — even excessive — concern for civilians. “American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians,” reporter Eric Schmitt says.

The newspaper gives voice to numerous, mostly anonymous officials to complain that the U.S. cares too deeply about protecting civilians to do what it should do against ISIS. We learn that “many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition’s larger effort to destroy” ISIS. And “a persistent complaint of Iraqi officials and security officers is that the United States has been too cautious in its air campaign, frequently allowing columns of Islamic State fighters essentially free movement on the battlefield.”

The article claims that “the campaign has killed an estimated 12,500 fighters” and “has achieved several successes in conducting about 4,200 strikes that have dropped about 14,000 bombs and other weapons.” But an anonymous American pilot nonetheless complains that “we have not taken the fight to these guys,” and says he “cannot get authority” to drone-bomb targets without excessive proof that no civilians will be endangered. Despite the criticisms, Schmitt writes, “administration officials stand by their overriding objective to prevent civilian casualties.

But there’s one rather glaring omission in this article: the many hundreds of civilian deaths likely caused by the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. Yet the only reference to civilian deaths are two, ones which the U.S. government last week admitted: “the military’s Central Command on Thursday announced the results of an inquiry into the deaths of two children in Syria in November, saying they were most likely killed by an American airstrike,” adding that “a handful of other attacks are under investigation.”

Completely absent is the abundant evidence from independent monitoring groups documenting hundreds of civilian deaths. Writing in Global Post last month, Richard Hall noted that while “in areas of Syria and Iraq held by the Islamic State, verifying civilian casualties is difficult,” there is “strong evidence [that] suggests civilians are dying in the coalition’s airstrikes.

Over at Moon of Alabama, b goes further… (more…)

John McCain Cites Islamic State As Bigger Threat Than Climate Change

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told host Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation, the Sunday political talk show on CBS, that President Barack Obama needs to focus on the Islamic State rather than climate change.

McCain responded to a question by Schieffer on what the Obama administration could do after the fall of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria to ISIS. He advocated for a “robust strategy” as the current one was not working:

We need to have a strategy. There is no strategy. And anybody that says that there is, I would like to hear what it is, because it certainly isn`t apparent now, and right now we are seeing these horrible — reports are now in Palmyra they`re executing people and leaving their bodies in the streets.

Meanwhile, the president of the United States is saying that the biggest enemy we have is climate change.

McCain’s reference to climate change stems from what President Obama told graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on May 20 when it came to the America’s security:

Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.

Criticism of the Obama administration on facing ISIS by McCain is not new as, on May 21, he called the loss of Ramadi “a significant defeat” when speaking on the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain is the chairman of the committee.

The White House admitted the fall of Ramadi was a “setback.” Yet White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the loss of the city is a part of the “back-and-forth” military campaign.
(more…)