Report Reveals Details of Obama’s Drone Program

originally posted at the New American Magazine

The headline in the Long War Journal reports: “2 al Qaeda leaders reported killed in Mir Ali drone strike.” The story fills in the details — those that can be ascertained without any official recognition of the strike or the deaths — saying:

Two al Qaeda commanders are reported to have been killed in Monday’s drone strike in the Mir Ali area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The report of the al Qaeda commanders’ deaths has not been confirmed.

Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Fateh al Turki, a previously unidentified leader, are said to have been killed in the Sept. 24 airstrike in the Mir Ali area, Pakistani intelligence officials, Taliban commanders, and local tribesmen told Dawn. Between five and six people were reportedly killed in the drone strike on a compound.

As Pakistan continues to be bombarded by missiles fired from U.S. drones, information revealed in a recent report compiled jointly by the law schools of New York University and Stanford demonstrates that such attacks “cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.”

The report entitled Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan contains tragic details of the myriad ways that President Obama’s death-by-drone program is devastating the lives of ordinary Pakistanis who have no connection to terror other than the fact that they are being constantly terrorized by the government of the United States.

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Obama Admin. Argues for Warrantless Cellphone Tracking

In a document filed September 4 in the D.C. District Court, the Obama administration argues that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a person’s cellphone GPS data. The president’s lawyers argue that they do not need a warrant to request cellphone company records regarding a customer’s movements and location as tracked by their signal towers.

In its argument against a motion filed to suppress the government’s use of a defendant’s cellphone location data, the Obama administration claims that the customer tracking records kept by cellphone service providers are no different from other business-related “third-party records” such as store receipts and bank account statements, and customers have no legal basis for any additional expectation of privacy.

The feds are making their case for warrantless tracking of citizens in a re-trial of an accused drug dealer whose conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court in its decision in the case of United States v. Jones.

In the Jones case the high court held that warrantless installation of tracking devices on cars was unconstitutional. In light of that decision, lawyers for the federal government are shifting their focus to Jones’s cellphone tracking data.

Wired describes the decision and the White House’s reaction:

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House Passes Extension of NSA’s Electronic Surveillance of Americans

originally published at The New American Magazine

In a move that should surprise no one aware of the increasing size, scope, and sophistication of the U.S. surveillance state, the House of Representatives voted on September 12 to approve a five-year extension of the snooping scheme created by George W. Bush in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The FISA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008 after being overwhelmingly passed 293 to 129 in the House and 69-28 in the Senate. Just a couple of days prior to FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) being enacted, Representative Ron Paul and a coalition of Internet activists united to create a political action committee, Accountability Now, to conduct a money bomb in order to raise money to purchase ad buys to alert voters to the names of those congressmen (Republican and Democratic) who voted in favor of the act.

George W. Bush’s signature was but the public pronouncement of the ersatz legality of the wiretapping that was otherwise revealed to the public in a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005. That article, entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” described the brief history of the “anti-terrorist” program:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said.

The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

It’s not the eavesdropping that’s the most egregious violation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (such activities are conducted by law enforcement all the time for legitimate purposes), but it’s the indefensible fact that the federally empowered snoops conduct this surveillance without a probable cause warrant so long as one of the parties being monitored is located outside the territory of the United States. The justification being that if an American is talking, texting, or emailing a foreigner, then something might be said that would aid in the acquisition of “foreign intelligence information.”

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Leaked Executive Order Gives Feds Control over Cybersecurity

Stroke of the pen, law of the land … kinda cool.” This nugget spoken by former Clinton adviser Paul Begala seems more than anything to be the guiding principle of the Obama Administration.

As is being widely reported, the White House is currently drafting an executive order giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) power to establish standards of cybersecurity purportedly protecting the “U.S. power grid from electronic attacks.”

BusinessWeek describes the new program as a “a council that would work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish the cybersecurity standards.”

Of course, the information being leaked about the proposed edict makes it clear that the adoption of such standards will be voluntary.

The threshold question that arises from the announcement of such a radical step toward federal control over our information infrastructure is not being answered. That is: Is the power grid of the United States being regularly attacked?

In a word: no. As Michael Tanji of Wired pointed out in a recent article refuting the government’s insistence that we are the target of frequent cyberattacks, “To start, these systems are rarely connected directly to the public internet. And that makes gaining access to grid-controlling networks a challenge for all but the most dedicated, motivated and skilled — nation-states, in other words.”

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Obama Lists His Five Criteria for Death by Drone

Originally published at The New American

President Obama is tearing the shroud of secrecy off his once hush-hush death-by-drone program.

From his interview with Ben Swann, host of Fox 19’s Reality Check, to his sit-down with CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, the kill-list compiler-in-chief is gradually exposing details of the principles he purportedly follows before targeting someone for assassination.

The president may assume that there is little reason to try hiding something that is being publicized daily — except in the mainstream media. In fairness, the New York Times has done fine work chronicling the expansion of the use of drones, as well as their involvement in the killing of innocents overseas caught in the blast zone of missiles aimed at alleged militants.

An exception to the official policy of silence on the matter of the death-by-drone program being carried out by the White House and the CIA was made earlier this year. In April the White House’s top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, admitted for the first time publicly to the government’s significant reliance on drones in prosecuting the War on Terror. Brennan said that the remote control killing of suspects on foreign soil who have been charged with no crime whatsoever, is “in full accordance with the law.”

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NDAA Nullification Movement Grows in Michigan

originally published at The New American

The Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) reports that “last week, the Allegan County, Michigan. Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing federal kidnapping powers.”

The powers referred to in the TAC article are those included in relevant provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law on December 31, 2011 by President Barack Obama.

Section 1021 of that act authorizes the president to send the armed forces to indefinitely detain:

a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

Despite an attempt by Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.) to remove them, the indefinite detention provisions remain intact in the 2013 version of the bill.

Allegan County’s resolution rejects these pernicious provisions. The resolution reads:

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Pointing Out the Peaks of the Massive Surveillance Iceberg

originally published at The New American

Every time a shutter blinks in one of the millions of cameras mounted on stoplights or building corners, the faces of those within the sight of the lens are instantly recorded and saved to a database kept somewhere for use by someone for some purpose.

The New American has been at the forefront of the coverage of the proliferation of many of the powerful and prolific surveillance technologies deployed in the United States. One of the most robust of these systems is the software connecting a network of cameras known asTrapWire.

TrapWire is a massive and technologically advanced surveillance system that has the capacity to keep nearly the entire population of this country under the watchful eye of government 24 hours a day. Using this network of cameras and other surveillance tools, the federal government is rapidly constructing an impenetrable, inescapable theater of surveillance, most of which is going unnoticed by Americans and unreported by the mainstream media.

Unlike other elements of the central government’s cybersurveillance program, word about TrapWire was not leaked by Obama administration insiders. The details of this insidious surveillance scheme were disclosed by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group founded by Julian Assange.

The TrapWire story percolated from the millions of e-mails from the Austin, Texas-based private intelligence-gathering firm Stratfor, published this year by WikiLeaks. Covering correspondence from mid-2004 to 2011, these documents expose Stratfor’s “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods.”

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TrapWire: The Federal Gov’t is Literally Watching Every Move You Make

The U.S. government exercises control over a massive and technologically advanced surveillance system that has the capacity to keep nearly the entire population of this country under the watchful eye of government 24 hours a day.

TrapWire is the name of this newly revealed network of cameras and other surveillance tools being utilized by a federal government that is rapidly constructing an impenetrable, inescapable theater of surveillance, most of which is going unnoticed by Americans and unreported by the mainstream media.

Unlike other elements of the central government’s cybersurveillance program, word about TrapWire was not leaked by Obama administration insiders. The details of this nearly unbelievable surveillance scheme were made public by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group founded by Julian Assange.

The TrapWire story percolated from the millions of emails from the Austin, Texas-based private intelligence-gathering firm Stratfor, published this year by WikiLeaks.

Covering correspondence from mid-2004 to 2011, these documents expose Stratfor’s “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods.”

This coterie of Stratfor co-conspirators are apparently angry about the leaks, considering that the WikiLeaks servers have been under near-constant Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks since the TrapWire revelations began attracting notice of alternative journalists. Some outlets report that the cyberattacks are being carried out by agents of the American intelligence community determined to prevent the full depth of this scandal from being explored by reporters.

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Should Pres. Obama be Detained for Violating the NDAA?

Originally published at The New American Magazine

If President Obama is supporting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces, should he be subject to indefinite detention under the terms of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)?

As The New American has chronicled since it was first proposed, the NDAA purportedly authorizes the president of the United States to deploy the armed forces to apprehend and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of providing support to terrorists. Section 1021 of the NDAA reads in relevant part:

Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C.1541 note) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

A covered person under this section is any person as follows:

A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

And, finally:

Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

A plain reading of Section 1021 reveals, then, that anyone who is found to have “substantially supported” al-Qaeda or associated forces can be detained by the military until the end of the War on Terror. Now, the relevant question becomes: Has President Obama substantially supported al-Qaeda and if so, how? 

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House Passes Bill Eliminating Senate Approval of Presidential Appointments

By a vote of 261-116, the House of Representatives passed a bill rewriting Article II of the Constitution and divesting the Senate of the power to accept or reject the appointment of many presidential nominees.

Last year, the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 79-20, so it now goes to the desk of President Obama for his signature.

“Important positions will be filled faster, government agencies will be more capable of offering valuable services to their constituents, and the overall confirmation process will be more efficient,” said Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Dozens of key management positions in the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Commerce, and Homeland Security (including the treasurer of the United States, the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, the director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness, and the assistant administrator of FEMA) will now be filled by presidential edict, without the need of the “advice and consent” of the Senate, a phrase specifically removed from the process in the text of the bill.

Although the House vote occurred on Tuesday, the Senate voted to surrender its constitutional check on the executive over a year ago on June 29, 2011.

Despite a last-minute attempt by some House leaders to put the measure to a voice vote, thus allowing members to vote in favor of the legislation without being listed on the record, a roll call vote was taken, and the name of every congressman who voted to unconstitutionally neuter the legislative branch is listed.

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