(October 29, 2012) — In 1998, the Defense Department vetoed a delegation of prominent US nuclear specialists to go to Iran to investigate its nuclear program at the invitation of the government of newly-elected Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, according to the nuclear scientist who was organizing the mission.
The Pentagon objected to the delegation’s mission even though it was offered the option of including one or more scientists of its own choosing on the delegation, according to Dr. Behrad Nakhai, the nuclear scientist who was organizing it.
The Pentagon veto of the nuclear scientists’ delegation eliminated the Khatami government’s most promising initiative to promote a thaw in US-Iran relations by weakening a key US argument for viewing Iran as a threat.
The Bill Clinton administration had been accusing Iran of wanting nuclear weapons, based not on intelligence on the nuclear program but on the assumption that Iran would use enriched uranium for nuclear weapons rather than for civilian power.
In a series of interviews with IPS, Nakhai, an Iranian who had come to the United States after high school, got a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and was a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, provided a detailed account of the episode.
Iran’s mission to the UN informed Nakhai in late February 1998 that President Khatami and the new head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam-Reza Aghazadeh, wanted him to put together a group of nuclear scientists to visit Iran to study the Iranian nuclear program, Nakhai recalled.
The Iranian invitation came in the wake of President Khatami’s January 1998 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour calling for a “crack in the wall of distrust” between the United States and Iran and his appeal to the US people for “the exchange of professors, writers, scholars, artists, journalists and tourists.”
Although those appeals had been followed by a public rejection by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of official talks between Iran and the United States, Khatami appeared determined to reduce tensions with Washington.
Nakhai recalled that he asked Iranian officials at the UN mission how big the delegation could be and was told, “You decide and we will issue the visas.” Iran would also foot the bill for the trip, they said. “Where can I take them?” asked Nakhai, and the Iranians responded, “You decide. No restrictions.” The Iranians said the US scientists could meet with whomever they chose, according to Nakhai’s account.
After being assured by Nakhai that there would be no restrictions on what the scientists could see and where they could go, Lahey expressed interest in the proposed delegation, Nakhai recalled.
In an e-mail to Lahey that same day, which Nakhai has provided to IPS, Nakhai wrote, “The 7-10 days visit will entail sessions with government officials, discussions with University and Laboratory faculties, and tours of facilities.” Nakhai suggested late spring for the delegation trip.
At Nakhai’s request, Lahey offered to contact other prominent nuclear scientists, and in a Mar. 24 e-mail to Nakhai, also provided to IPS, Lahey said, “I have now heard from a number of top specialists in the field of Nuclear Energy and Safety who would be interested in going to Iran on a technology exchange visit.”
Lahey said Prof. Theo Theofanous of University of California Santa Barbara, Professor John J. Dorning of the University of Virginia and Dr. Rusi Taleyarkhan of Oak Ridge National Laboratory had expressed their willingness to join Lahey on such a delegation.
Leahy’s e-mail also said Nakhai would need to contact the State Department “to make sure that we have formal permission to go on this trip.” Most prominent nuclear scientists had security clearances from the Department of Energy, he noted, and could lose their clearances if they made the trip without official approval.
In mid-March, Nakhai recalls, he called the State Department’s Iran desk officer, J. Christopher Stevens. Stevens went on to become ambassador to Libya in 2012 but was killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
In their third conversation that same week, Stevens told the scientist that the trip was “a good idea,” according to Nakhai. But Stevens said Nakhai would have to “clear it with the Department of Defense.”
Stevens gave Nakhai the telephone number for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asia Alina Romanowski, the top adviser to the secretary of defense on Near East matters. But when Nakhai called Romanowski, he got a decidedly negative response to the proposed trip.
Romanowski was unequivocally opposed to the idea, according to Nakhai, arguing that the scientists wouldn’t be able to get the truth in Iran. “They will mislead you,” Nakhai recalled her saying. “They will not show you everything.”
“I told her these scientists could not be easily fooled,” Nakhai said. He pointed to Lahey’s experience in leading a mission to China during the Richard Nixon administration.
Nakhai then told Romanowski that the group would ask to go wherever the Defense Department wanted them to go. Nakhai asked her to think it over, and said he would call back later. When Nakhai called back a week later, Romanowski gave him the same answer and the same argument, Nakhai said.
In a later conversation with Romanowski, Nakhai recalled, he offered her assurances that he would include an expert on nuclear weapons on the delegation. He also referred to his contacts with the American Nuclear Society — the premier professional association of specialists on civilian nuclear power — and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
And in yet another phone conversation with Romanowski, Nakhai said, he invited the Pentagon to “send somebody of your own choosing as part of the delegation.” But Romanowski’s opposition remained unchanged.
Nearly two months after he had first contacted the Defense Department official, Nakhai pulled the plug on the project in May 1998. Romanowski is now deputy assistant administrator in the US Agency for International Development’s Middle East Bureau. Responding to a query from IPS Thursday, a spokesman for USAID, Ben Edwards, said, “Ms. Romanowski cannot comment about the DoD in her current capacity at USAID.”
Robert Pelletreau, who had been assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asia in 1994-97 and had been deputy assistant secretary of defense for the same region in 1983-85, told IPS the decision to oppose the delegation trip would have been made at a higher level at DOD with input from the Joint Staff and others.
DOD’s reluctance to see a gesture toward Iran that the State Department was supporting might have been a factor, according to Pelletreau, along with distrust of an initiative coming from an Iranian scientist with no ties to the Pentagon.
The DOD’s rejection of the nuclear scientists’ mission came at a crucial turning point in Iran’s nuclear program. Iran had begun testing centrifuges secretly and making plans for the construction of a uranium enrichment facility.
Although the delegation of scientists would not have uncovered those facts, it probably would have anticipated the construction of both uranium conversion and enrichment facilities, and could have analyzed whether the profile of Iran’s nuclear program indicated that it was indeed for civilian power or not. Such a report might have challenged the Clinton administration’s line on the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons.
Nakhai believes the Pentagon wanted to protect that line. “They had anticipated that the nuclear program would be useful for pressure on Iran,” Nakhai said, “and they didn’t want any reduction in that pressure point.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Why Is Mitt Romney So Confident?
NSA Analyst Proves GOP Is Stealing Elections
(October 25, 2012) — In states where the winner will be decided by less than 10%, of the vote he already knows he will win. This is no tinfoil hat conspiracy. It’s a math problem. And mathematics showed changes in actual raw voting data that had no statistical correlation other than programmable computer fraud.
This computer fraud resulted in votes being flipped from Democrat to Republican in every federal, senatorial, congressional and gubernatorial election since 2008 (thus far) and in the 2012 primary contests from other Republicans to Mitt Romney.
This goes well beyond Romney’s investment control in voting machine maker Hart Intercivic and Diebold’s close ties to George W. Bush. Indeed all five voting machine companies have very strong GOP fundraising ties, yet executives (including the candidate’s son Tagg Romney) insist there is no conflict between massively supporting one party financially whilst controlling the machines that record and count the votes.
A retired NSA analyst has spent several sleepless nights applying a simple formula to past election results across Arizona. His results showed across-the-board systemic election fraud on a coordinated and massive scale. But the analysis indicated that this only happens in larger precincts because anomalies in small precincts can be more easily detected.
The bigger the precinct (x axis) the higher the number of votes for Romney and corresponding decrease for Santorum and Paul when all lines should look like the Gingrich line.
“Easy to Cheat”
Retired NSA analyst Michael Duniho has worked for nearly seven years trying to understand voting anomalies in his home state of Arizona and Pima County. This publication has written extensively about apparent vote machine manipulation in a 2006 RTA Bond issue election that is still being fought in the courts. Said Duniho, “It is really easy to cheat using computers to count votes, because you can’t see what is going on in the machine.”
When Duniho applied a mathematical model to actual voting results in the largest voting precincts, he saw that only the large precincts suddenly trended towards Mitt Romney in the Arizona primary — and indeed all Republicans in every election since 2008 — by a factor of 8%-10%. The Republican candidate in every race saw an 8-10%. gain in his totals whilst the Democrat lost 8-10%. This is a swing of up to 20 point, enough to win an election unless a candidate was losing very badly.
Since sifting through and decoding massive amounts of data was his work for decades on behalf of the National Security Agency, he wanted to understand why this was ONLY happening in large precincts.
The idea of examining large precinct results came via a link to a report written by Francois Choquette and James Johnson. Choquette became curious about South Carolina primary results in the February Republican contest. There a poll observer noted an unusually big gain of votes for Mitt Romney in larger precincts than in smaller ones. Choquette wanted to know why?
He examined and applied all of the normal statistical markers to see where a variance might occur: income level, population density, race, urban vs. rural, even party registration numbers. He found no correlation to explain why Romney votes trended upward while Paul and Santorum votes trended downward -yet only in large precincts.
Choquette then looked at all 50 states and found roughly a 10% switch in votes from Democrat to GOP. This was noted in every state except Utah, where the presumption was, as it was Mitt’s religious home state and very conservative, there was no chance of Romney losing and no variance was found.
Choquette even saw in Maricopa County, which is Phoenix and its suburbs, that in 2008 Romney used this technique against John McCain. But McCain beat him by too much for a 10% fraud gain to matter. McCain tried to do the same thing in the general election to President Obama but 9 million votes nationally were too many to make up.
Examining every county across America was too massive an undertaking for any one person so he included a simple set of instructions and encouraged others to do the same with raw vote totals in their county/state.
1. Download the text files of all raw actual vote results by precinct from the Secretary of State’s Office.
2. Arrange them in precinct order.
3. Put in all of the candidate totals for each precinct.
4. Sort the data by total vote smallest on the top.
Now here it gets a bit dense: He needed to add columns that show cumulative totals by candidate then compare them by candidate to establish trend lines.
That reveals trends should remain statistically constant throughout an election.
But as the spreadsheet shows, the larger the precinct, the numbers start to change dramatically.
“If percentages did not change from one precinct to the next, we would see a flat line, but what we are seeing is sloped lines downward for Democrats and upward for Republicans (or, in the case of the Presidential primary, upward for Romney and downward for his opponents), said Duniho.”
In every election contest, the trend lines dramatically crossed for no apparent reason. It was revealed that votes were being systemically bled off for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul and then being credited to Mitt Romney.
Once Duniho completed the spreadsheet, he pumped in actual vote totals from other Arizona election contests. [Chart showing Barber v Kelly special election to replace Gabby Giffords result in Pima County where the margin of victory was too large even with the supposed ‘fix’ in to overcome.] He looked at every 2010 race in Arizona from Governor Brewer to Senator McCain and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The trends lines all did the exact same thing. Someone had manipulated the election outcome, most likely one person inserting a programme inside the system’s central computerâ€¦ that flipped votes.
The results were astounding.
They showed that Governor Brewer actually lost her election and Gabby Gifford’s razor thin less than 1% point re-election victory over Tea Party Conservative Jesse Kelly was closer to a 20 point victory for her. Duniho added, “We need to have strong hand count audits to confirm the integrity of these elections. This means comparing hand counts with official reports of the election.”
This isn’t the first time Republicans have been charged with vote theft. It happened in the 2004 presidential election, in Ohio and Florida. In Ohio, GOP consultant Michael Connell claimed that the vote count computer program he had created for the state had a trap door that shifted Democratic votes to the GOP.
He was subpoenaed as a witness in a lawsuit against then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and lawyers for the plaintiff asked the Dept. of Justice to provide him with security because there were two threats made against Connell’s life by people associated with Karl Rove. But in Dec. 2008, before the trial began, Connell was killed in a plane crash outside Akron Ohio.
There were problems in Florida, as well.
A study by the Quantitative Methods Research Team at the University of California at Berkeley found that anomalies between Florida counties using touch-screen voting and those using other methods could not be explained statistically. Noting the higher-than-expected votes for Bush in three large Democratic counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, Michael Hout, a Berkeley professor who did the study said there were strong suspicions of vote-rigging.
“No matter how many factors and variables we took into consideration, the significant correlation in the votes for President Bush and electronic voting cannot be explained,” Hout said. “The study shows that a county’s use of electronic voting resulted in a disproportionate increase in votes for President Bush. There is just a trivial probability of evidence like this appearing in a population where the true difference is zeroâ€”less than once in a thousand chances.”
Don’t Trust, Verify
Indeed the only way to 100% verify this election fraud would be through handcounts of ballots by precinct, matching those results to the reported totals. But as was mentioned earlier, a group in Pima County has been trying unsuccessfully to get access to ballots to conduct such a count for almost five years since anomalies first surfaced in voting machines in 2006.
Is there a judge in Arizona likely to suddenly reverse past trends and allow access to conduct such a handcount of ballots 12 days before a national election? And if not, why not? Maybe someone needs to commission the Anonymous hacker group to re-level the playing field because the courts are not going to do it.
The results of Duniho’s analysis can only happen if votes are being stolen, and the only way that’s possible is if the computerised machines are programmed to steal them. Welcome to Zimbabwe.
More than 100 million Americans will cast their ballots thinking their vote will be fairly counted. It should be. Yet the crooks know they can safely flip up to 10% of votes without consequence. Anything more than that is statistically suspect.
President Obama won by such a huge margin in 2008 that even with this anomaly built into the system, he cruised to victory. This year the election is much closer. Can American democracy afford yet another election crisis placing three of the four last national Presidential election results in question or worse: The outcome was stolen, the outcome a victim of election theft?
Don’t Take Our Word
Use the spreadsheet above to do the math in your own state, county or precinct. The results are compelling. Then demand that the Justice Department stop this insane view that results need to be reported by 11 pm for the television networks. Demand hand ballot counts!
We use paper ballots in the UK and results do not even begin to trickle in until 3 am. The final outcome can take up to three days to finalise. But voters in Britain know the count is accurate because every ballot is transparently hand-counted. When I read this article that Serbia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were sending election monitors to watch the US Election?, I knew we’d jumped the shark.
We are already being victimized by vote fraud on a scale that, in another country, would lead to calls for international election monitors. It is time for Americans to stop being victims of ghosts in the machine.
(This story was simultaneously released on the magazine and The David Pakman Show of 25 October.)
Denis G. Campbell is the author of 6 books including ‘Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,’ ‘The Vagina Wars’ & ‘Egypt Unsh@ckled.’ He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly ‘World View with Denis Campbell’ segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
Charley James is a long-time independent journalist who covers social justice, politics and economic issues. He’s worked in print and broadcast media for national magazines, large newspapers and major market radio and television outlets. Follow Charley on Twitter @SuddenlyHomeles.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(October 25, 2012) — A primary reason for opposing the acquisition of abusive powers and civil liberties erosions is that they virtually always become permanent, vested not only in current leaders one may love and trust but also future officials who seem more menacing and less benign.
The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize — to make officially permanent — the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States’ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part).
Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”
In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that “CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones”, which “reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.”
The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:
“JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.”
The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: “disposition matrix”. Writes Miller: “Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
“The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”
The “disposition matrix” has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is “to augment” the “separate but overlapping kill lists” maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s “matrix”.
As Miller describes it, it is “a single, continually evolving database” which includes “biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations” as well as “strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols”.
This analytical system that determines people’s “disposition” will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was “looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA”.
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes “a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix” as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: “We had a disposition problem.”
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed — “It is the keeper of the criteria,” says one official to the Post — is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC — despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the “massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States”.
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes “records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records” — “literally anything the government collects would be fair game”.
In other words, the NCTC — now vested with the power to determine the proper “disposition” of terrorist suspects — is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used.
Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days — a limit which “meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans” — it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC “to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years”.
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:
“All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped.
For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
“All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.”
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized — is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions:
(1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and
(2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight.
It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post‘s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: “The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.” As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:
Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.
To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: “The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.”
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, “officials said no clear end is in sight” when it comes to the war against “terrorists” because, said one official, “we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us” but trying is “a necessary part of what we do”.
Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who “want to harm us”. That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that — without hyperbole — is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a “disposition matrix” to determine what punishment should be meted out.
This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: “If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?” The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power — and profit — more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4: “It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.”
In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests.
So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.
Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct — that “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade” — this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war.
This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention — that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the “end of hostilities” — so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment — permanent incarceration — without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations — something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life — and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic “war on terror” proponents in both political parties have become.
As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, “missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people — including one woman” and added: “the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.”
Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he “should have a far more responsible father”.
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out “that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.” Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:
“Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'”
That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is “bug splat”. This — this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset — is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.
At Wired Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled “President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List”. Here is his concluding paragraph:
“Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.”
It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Israeli DM: Iran Has Pulled Back From Nuclear Bomb Goal John Glaser / AntiWar.com
(October 30, 2012) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that Iran has pulled back its nuclear ambitions by allocating its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes earlier this year, but insisted on keeping the threat of military action on the table.
Barak was reiterating official Israeli statements from earlier this month which acknowledged the IAEA’s recent findings that Iran on several recent occasions has used the 20 percent enriched uranium — the highest it has and the portion of the program which most riled hawks in the West — to manufacture fuel rods for research for cancer treatment.
This use is exactly the use that Iran has stated its 20 percent enriched uranium is for, as opposed to what war-mongers in Israel and the United States claimed it was for, a creeping nuclear weapons program.
Senior Israeli officials said the IAEA’s findings matched with their own intelligence and Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons was set back by “eight to ten months.” This amount of time is considerable especially when one takes into account the US intelligence consensus which says that Iran had already been up to four years away from having a deliverable nuclear weapon from that point that the decision to develop one was made, which has not happened yet.
Barak offered some elementary analysis: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer,” he said.
“It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) â€˜oh we comply with our commitments.”
However Israeli leaders want to spin it, the fact is that even they now admit that an imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is nonexistent.
Israel significantly dialed back its war propaganda on Iran in the last couple months. Not only did they seem to lose the diplomatic game with the Obama administration to try and pressure for an American-backed strike, but Israeli elections are coming up and even hawks like Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have to quiet their war mongering to appeal to an Israeli population that overwhelmingly opposes a preventive strike on Iran. [See following story.]
(October 15, 2012) –Around 80 percent of respondents in a survey of both Israelis and Palestinians say that an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would ignite a major regional war.
The poll was a joint effort of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
In this case, public opinion in both Israel and Palestine falls in line with the general consensus in the US military and intelligence community. As a recent report by former government officials, national security experts and retired military officers concluded last month prompt large-scale Iranian retaliation that would spark an uncontrollable regional war.
The assessment is in line with previous estimates of the consequences of an attack. A declassified war simulation run by the Pentagon earlier this year forecasted such a “strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States” and would immediately get at least 200 Americans killed in Iran’s retaliation, not to mention heavy Iranian and Israeli casualties.
Iran would probably attack US troops in neighboring Afghanistan, the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in nearby Bahrain, and possibly other US assets in the Persian Gulf.
Up to 65 percent of Israelis in the poll said they were against US backing of an Israeli strike on Iran, an increase from 52 percent in June, while only 18 percent of Israelis said they supported an Israeli attack without US backing.
The poll also found that about 70 percent of Israelis and Palestinians believe the chances of establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years were low or nonexistent.
Additionally, 61 percent of Israelis and 52 percent of Palestinians said they support the two-state solution, which generally refers to territorial lines along the pre-1967 borders. Thirty-six percent of Israelis and 46 percent of Palestinians oppose such a settlement.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(October 29, 2012) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acknowledged the massive Sandy storm could impact both coastal and inland nuclear power plants. At least 16 reactors are in the storm’s projected path, including North Anna and Surry in Virginia; Calvert Cliffs in Maryland; Oyster Creek, Hope Creek and Salem in New Jersey; Indian Point in New York; Millstone in Connecticut; and Vermont Yankee. So far, there have been no reports of reactors shutting down, despite operating under licenses that require them to do so if weather conditions are too severe.
Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry senior vice president who has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the country. He provides independent testimony on nuclear and radiation issues to the NRC, congressional and state legislatures, and government agencies and officials in the US and abroad. He is the chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates and co-author of the Greenpeace report, “Lessons from Fukushima.”
Transcript AMY GOODMAN: We continue our coverage of Hurricane Sandy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acknowledged the massive storm could impact coastal and inland nuclear plants. At least 16 plants are in the storm’s projected path, including North Anna and Surry in Virginia; Calvert Cliffs in Maryland; Hope Creek and Salem in New Jersey; Indian Point in New York; Millstone in Connecticut.
So far, there have been no reports of reactors shutting down, despite operating under licenses that require them to do so if weather conditions are too severe.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission met on Sunday to discuss the precautions needed to secure vulnerable plants during the storm. Spokeswoman Diane Screnci said, quote, “They’re all designed to withstand the natural phenomena, including hurricanes and what comes with hurricanesâ€”high winds, high water, that kind of thing.”
Well, for more, we go now to Burlington, Vermont, to speak with Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry senior vice president who has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the country, now chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates.
Arnie Gundersen, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what you’re concerned about.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN:Yeah, thanks for having me. The key here is that when a uranium atom splits, that only gives off about 95 percent of the power, so when these plants shut down, 5 percent of the power is still going to come out of the power plants after they’re shut down. I think the industry should preemptively shut down plants in the storm’s wake, but it’s not going to solve the entire problem. It’s really likely that the grid, the electric grid that’s out there, will collapse, and these plants will become islands, electric islands, and they’ll have to rely on their diesel generators to provide power.
A bunch of these plants are in refuelings right now. And when you’re in a refueling outage, you are not required to have all your diesels running. You can be tearing apart one and only have one diesel available. So the concern is that, should they lose offsite power, all of this heat needs to be removed, and you’re relying on just one diesel to keep the nuclear reactor cool.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you feel needs to happen right now? And talk about nuclear power plants in Connecticut, in Vermont, your main concern.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN:Yeah. The biggest problem, as I see it right now, is the Oyster Creek plant, which is on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. That appears to be right about the center of the storm. Oyster Creek is the same design, but even older than Fukushima Daiichi unit 1. It’s in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it’s over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there’s no backup power for the spent fuel pools.
So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power — and, frankly, that’s really likely — there would be no way cool that nuclear fuel that’s in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don’t have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. I hope the Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes that and forces the industry to cool its nuclear fuel pools, as well.
This time of year, there’s a lot of power plants in refueling outages. And all of those plants will be in a situation where there’s no fuel in the nuclear reactor; it’s all in the fuel pool. Systems have been shut down to be maintained, including diesels, perhaps even completely dismantled. And in the event that there’s a loss of offsite power from the high winds from this hurricane, we will see the water in the fuel pools begin to heat up.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Sheehan, a representative of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said, “These plants have to be able to withstand all sorts of natural phenomena: earthquakes, severe flooding, tropical storms, lightning storms, tornadoes.
They need to be able to deal with all of that. We like to say they’re very robust structures, they can deal with a lot of punishment, but at the same time they have procedures in place to guide them through this.” So then, Arnie Gundersen, what is your concern?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN:You know, this isn’t likeâ€”like the Big Bad Wolf. They can huff and puff, and they won’t blow this plant down, especially a hurricane that’s only 85-mile-an-hour winds. It’s not a question of the winds from this hurricane blowing the plant down. It’s a question of the loss of offsite power. That’s exactly what happened after Fukushima Daiichi.
The earthquake destroyed the offsite power. At that point, the nuclear plant relies on its diesels. And my big concern is diesel reliability and the fact that nuclear plants don’t have to cool their nuclear fuel pools off their diesels per NRC regulations. I think those are the two big concerns for Hurricane Sandy.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what’s happening in Vermont. Tell us what’s happening with Vermont Yankee, Arnie Gundersen, a plant you know well.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN:Yeah. Irene hit Vermont Yankee pretty hard. And we are expecting a little less rain from Sandy than we were from Irene. What was interestingâ€”talk about the law of unanticipated consequencesâ€”there was so much flooding in Vermont that large gas canisters that people had in their backyard to heat their homes or heat their trailer parks or to heat their barbecues went floating down the Connecticut River and bumped into a hydroelectric dam, which is just south of Vermont Yankee. And the state police actually blocked off the road heading into Vermont Yankee because they were afraid all the hydrogen in those canisters was likely to explode.
Now, that’s not in the design bases of a nuclear plant. Nobody ever thought that we’d have to worry about explosive gases floating down rivers by our nuclear plants and potentially causing damage. Here in Vermont, I think we’ll have a less severe event near our nuclear plant than we had last year, but it really depends on the degree of the flooding.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the most important issues we can learn from Fukushima right now in the United States? And how does climate change fit in with both, Arnie Gundersen?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN:Well, climate change has affected nuclear plants this year. Quite a few had to reduce power in the summer because river flow rates had dropped and there wasn’t enough water to cool them. And that happened in France and around the world, as well.
So we portray nuclear power as a way to eliminate climate change, but in fact we need to solve climate change before we can have nuclear power plants, because there’s just not enough cooling water to cool these plants in the event of hot summers.
Well now, in the fall, and the lesson from Daiichi, is that the nuclear fuel pools are a major liability. There’s more nuclear — more cesium in the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee than was ever exploded in all of the 700 above-ground bomb testing. I think the most important lesson we can take out of the Fukushima Daiichi and climate change, and especially with Hurricane Sandy, is that we can’t expect to cool these fueling pools. We need to remove the fuel.
We need to put it in dry casks and get it down from these high fuel pools, get it down onto the ground in dry cask storage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not insisting on that, because it’s going to cost a couple billion dollars for the industry.
AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Gundersen, I want to turn south for a moment to Patrick Elie.
(October 29, 2012) — As Hurricane Sandy barreled towards the Northeastern US, 60 million coastal and inland residents suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of climate change. Large enough to hammer the eastern third of the country with record-breaking winds, rain and floods, the Halloween Hurricane packed an unprecedented punchâ€”it was set to collide head-on with a massive blizzard storming in from the northwest.
With the Eastern Seaboard about to become the Ground Zero of Extreme Weather, homeowners, first responders, and public officials prepared to deal with potentially historic damage to buildings, farms, and roads as well as region-wide disruptions of fuel and power.
And then there is the issue of nuclear power plants.
Nuclear reactors are barely mentioned when disaster preparedness agencies begin issuing storm warnings. This is a mistake. In the past, floods, storms, lightening strikes and earthquakes have repeatedly knocked US reactors offline. On several occasions, extended power outages have put reactors at risk of core damage. In a few cases, some of these high-risk atomic steam kettles came within hours of a meltdown before critical power was restored.
Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Floods, Oh My!/big>
Hurricanes, tornadoes, and epic floods have measurably increased in frequency and intensity since the 1990s. Residents of the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico have seen neighborhoods ravaged by more than one â€œonce-in-a-lifetimeâ€ hurricane.
More than 20 nuclear power plants are located in Hurricane Sandyâ€™s immediate path — including reactors at Beaver Valley, Calvert Cliffs, Limerick, Millstone, Three Mile Island, Salem, Seabrook, Susquehana, Surry and at Indian Point (24 miles north of New York City).
Especially worrisome are several GE Mark 1 reactors that share the same design flaws as the three GE-built reactors that lost power, suffered meltdowns and exploded in Fukushima, Japan. The eight Fukushima-style reactors located in Sandyâ€™s path are: Fitzpatrick (New York), Hope Creek (New Jersey), Nine Mile Point 1 (New York), Oyster Creek (New Jersey), Peach Bottom 1 & 2 (Pennsylvania), Pilgrim (Massachusetts), and Vermont Yankee (Vermont).
A History of Weather-related Near Misses
Even without Fukushima-scale temblors and tsunamis, reactors remain surprisingly vulnerable to major storms.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew slammed into Floridaâ€™s Turkey Point reactor near Miami, forcing the plant to rely on its emergency power generators. When the plant came dangerously close to running out of diesel fuel, Turkey Pointâ€™s operators had to commandeer fuel from nearby hospitals to keep the generators running and prevent a meltdown.
In June 1998, Ohioâ€™s Davis-Besse reactor was hit by a tornado that cut the plant off from the electric grid. Emergency generators kicked in, but the power outage lasted so long that the generators nearly failed. Without emergency cooling, the spent fuel in the facilityâ€™s on-site storage pools could have overheated, leading to a potential ignition and massive radiation release. Fortunately, outside power was restored shortly before the emergency generators would have run out of fuel.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina forced the shutdown of the Waterford nuclear plant in Louisiana and storm-related flooding along the Mississippi scuttled the stateâ€™s River Bend reactor.
In 2010, a tornado took down the power grid near Monroe, Michigan, damaging the 1,140-megawatt Fermi 2, and leaving the largest Fukushima-style Mark 1 reactor on earth without access to outside power needed to continue running emergency generators. Fermiâ€™s storage pool contains more high-level waste than the four damaged Fukushima reactors combined.
In August 2011, 14 nuclear plants from Maryland to New Hampshire were put under an NRC storm watch as Hurricane Irene approached. The 2,1110 MW Millstone plant in Connecticut and the Brunswick plant on the North Carolina coast were both forced to power-down. In New Jersey, the Oyster Creek reactor went off-line.
The worst damage was recorded at Marylandâ€™s Calvert Cliff plant, where the Unit 1 reactor was forced into automatic shutdown when a transformer was damaged by flying aluminum siding ripped loose by the storm.
US storm watchers predict Hurricane Sandy could cut power to 10 million Americans for a week to ten days. If outside electricity fails, nuclear reactors must rely on emergency cooling systems to prevent a meltdown. The generators providing this protection typically have no more than a weekâ€™s supply of diesel fuel on site — insufficient to ride out a blackout lasting ten days.
The Hidden Risk of Inland Tsunamis
The United States has recently seen how reactors can be threatened by â€œinland tsunamisâ€ released by extreme storms that cause rivers to overflow. In the US, 64 reactors sit near rivers or reservoirs that are prone to flooding. In the 1990s, flooding on the Missouri River caused the loss of emergency backup systems at Nebraskaâ€™s Cooper plant. Similar flooding along the Mississippi damaged emergency systems at the Prairie Island reactor in Minnesota.
In April 2011, the Fort Calhoun reactor, 20 miles north of Omaha, was engulfed by floodwaters as the rain-swollen Missouri overflowed its banks. The flooding was followed by an electrical fire in a critical safety system. Faced with $134 million in added repair costs, the reactor remains closed.
In mid-September, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was rocked by scandal when several NRC engineers revealed agency officials had suppressed a 2011 safety report. NRC engineer Richard Perkins claimed the NRC had â€œintentionally mischaracterizedâ€¦ safety informationâ€ to conceal the risk that â€œfailure of one or more dams upstream from a nuclear plant may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable.â€
Climate-related damageâ€”to roads, bridges, and reactors — is only expected to increase as the planetâ€™s weather grows more unruly. As the watchdog group Beyond Nuclear notes: â€œWhen reactors partially power down, or shut down entirely . . . it often happens at a time when reliable electricity supplies are needed most.â€
The irony in this, for those who would call for a â€œNuclear Renaissance,â€ is that it is renewable energyâ€”not nuclear powerâ€”that is proving itself to be â€œmore reliable in a global-warming world.â€
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal. He is the author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green). Email: email@example.com
The study, which was funded by the University of Michigan’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, examines the prevalence of birth defects in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Fallujah, both of which experienced heavy fighting during the worst days of the Iraq war.
As originally noted by US analyst David Isenberg, the study found an “astonishing” increase in the number of birth defects in a Basra maternal hospital when compared to before the war.
From October 1994 to October 1995, there were 1.37 birth defects at Al Basrah Maternity Hospital per 1,000 live births. By 2003, at the beginning of the war, the number of birth defects skyrocketed to 23 per 1,000 live births — a 17-fold increase. Then the number of birth defects doubled again: By 2009, the maternity hospital witnessed a staggering 48 birth defects per 1,000 live births. In 2011, the last year for which data is available, there were 37 birth defects per 1,000 live births.
These figures are wildly out of proportion to the prevalence of birth defects elsewhere in the world. Hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid in the brain, is reported in 0.6 infants per 1,000 live births in California.
In Basra, reported cases of hydrocephalus occurred six times more frequently. Neural tube defects (NTDs), brain and spinal cord conditions, are reported in one infant per 1,000 live births in the United States. In Basra, it is 12 per 1,000 live births, “the highest ever reported.”
What is the reason for this drastic increase in birth defects? The study proposes that exposure to metal contamination — notably mercury and lead — is to blame. To test their hypothesis, the scientists involved in the study conducted a case study of 56 families in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah, which witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
Among the families, more than half of infants were born with a birth defect from 2007 to 2010. Most importantly, the study found that hair samples of babies born with birth defects contained five times more lead and six times more mercury than healthy children. This high level of metal contamination was also found in the parents of children with birth defects in Basra.
This is not the first study to suggest a connection between Iraq’s devastating war and high levels of birth defects. A 2010 paper published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported on a questionnaire presented to almost 5,000 residents of Fallujah about incidents of cancer, birth defects and infant mortality within their family. In addition to “alarming rates” of cancer, the study found infants between zero and 1 year old were dying at a rate of 80 per 1,000 births — compared, for instance, to 19.8 children per 1,000 in Egypt.
What is less clear, however, is the connection between the coalition forces’ activities and the increase in birth defects. The University of Michigan study notes that lead and mercury are “toxic metals readily used in the manufacture of present-day bullets and other ammunition” — but does not prove a direct link between their use in Basra and Falluja and the rise in birth defects there. Instead, it concludes that the bombardment of those cities “may have exacerbated public exposure to metals, possibly culminating in the current epidemic.”
The studies are clear, however, that a health crisis is costing Iraqi infants their lives, and more research is needed to determine the cause and the cure. Until that is done, some uncomfortable questions about the lingering effects of the US-led war will remain.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
JOHANNESBURG (October 29, 2012) — Elise Daffue will never forget coming upon the young male rhinoceros dying in agony in the South African bush.
The young bull was struggling to breathe as it lay in the tall grass. It had been shot in the head. Maggots swarmed across its bloody snout where poachers had crudely hacked off its horn.
The animal’s top lip was paralysed; it had tried to chew on grass but couldn’t summon the strength. The rescue team determined that the animal had been laying there for a week.
“It broke my heart and it broke my soul,” said Daffue, the founder of stoprhinopoaching.com, who said that the plight of the animal inspired her to continue her mission. “Seeing that animal and seeing what he’s been through and knowing we were helpless to help him. â€¦ Not a day goes by when his life doesn’t touch my life.”
The rescue team tried to rouse the bull, but it was too weak to get up. Veterinarian Louis Greeff tried to wash out its infected horn. Finally, Greeff took out his rifle and aimed one shot through the animal’s forehead.
“For the rhino’s sake, I was actually reasonably okay until he was shot,” Daffue said. “But the moment he was shot, there are no words to describe the sadness and the devastation. I had never seen a live rhino like that.”
The 2,000-kilogram animal died for its five-kilogram horn.
Rise in Killings
That animal, which died in February in the nation’s northwest Borakalalo National Park, was among the 455 rhinos slaughtered so far for their horns in 2012, a record year for rhino killings in South Africa.
That number eclipses the 448 rhinos that were killed by poachers in 2011. And the death toll has been rising: in 2010, 333 rhinos were poached. Before 2005, however, poachers in South Africa killed an average of 14 rhinos a year.
The simple explanation is that the rise in demand from the growing Asian middle class is driving the rise in poaching. That horn, which is made of keratin and is reputed to have medicinal benefits in Asian traditional medicine, costs more per ounce than gold.
Those alleged benefits — including that its an aphrodisiac, can end hangovers and can even cure cancer — have been largely dispelled by scientific research. But that hasn’t stopped Asian consumers from snapping up the rare product at the whopping price of $65,000 a kilogram.
The drivers of the illicit trade are more complex, says Jo Shaw, rhino co-ordinator for WWF South Africa. “It seems almost to be a three-legged stool: the complicity of some within the wildlife industry connected with initially a lack of government response and then finally the existing Asian crime networks,” Shaw told Al Jazeera.
A report issued by wildlife group TRAFFIC in August noted that a growing number of rhinos are killed “with weapons characteristically used by wildlife industry professionals.”
But, Shaw says, most of the blame falls on shadowy, sophisticated crime networks, many of them based in Vietnam. She said some of those networks have also been linked to the drug trade and to human trafficking.
South African journalist Julian Rademeyer is writing a book into the trade. He’s spent two years researching the book, and found that the rhino trade is complex and has deep roots. Syndicate recruiters, he says, prey on poverty endemic in the rural areas near Kruger National Park, where most of the 455 rhinos were killed.
“It’s an incredibly complex situation,” he said. “You have villages along the border with Kruger (National Park) on the Mozambique side that are incredibly impoverished. And they pretty much have two choices: they can cross the border to Johannesburg and try to find menial work, or they can cross into Kruger and kill a rhino and make more money that they can make in a year. That’s a pretty stark choice.”
He says another local group involved with the syndicates are white game farm owners. One such owner, Marnus Steyl, is on trial for allegedly exploiting legal loopholes to cover his illegal trade in rhino horn.
Danger of Extinction
Conservationists have noted with increasing alarm that if the current trend continues, rhinos could be extinct in a matter of years. Last year, the WWF announced the extinction of rhinos in Vietnam.
Authorities and wildlife officials have tried hard to stay ahead. Shaw noted a rise in arrests, legislative and regulatory changes, and the establishment of a national wildlife crime reaction unit. WWF, she said, was also researching the market in Vietnam in order to learn how to educate consumers against buying rhino horn.
“One of the first things we realised is that we don’t know who’s using it and why, to understand the drivers, so we can combat it,” she said. “The worst thing you can do is have it backfire and increase demand.”
Rademeyer said he was surprised during a visit to Vietnam to hear that consumers had no idea how endangered rhinos are. “A lot of the people I spoke to didn’t quite understand the fuss,” he said.
He said people told him: ” â€˜There’s a horn of this animal that we don’t have in Vietnam, and you have thousands of them running around in South Africa.’ It’s this belief that there’s almost an unlimited supply. It’s a bit of a disconnect. There’s this stereotype being sold in South Africa of these evil, Fu Manchu Asians trying to kill our wildlife. It’s more that people there just don’t understand the fuss.”
In South Africa, officials have also tried more innovative solutions, including de-horning live rhinos to make them less attractive to poachers and opening a rhino orphanage in a secret location.
“It needs to be a multi-pronged response,” Shaw said. “Simply having more men and more guns, obviously that’s very important, but that’s not going to solve the problem.”
But, Rademeyer says, “the syndicates are so adept at manipulating regulations and laws that by the time the government has tightened up, the syndicates are already five steps ahead of them.”
Meanwhile, Daffue has had her heart and resolve hardened by the dying rhino.
“I can honestly say that now I have zero sympathy,” she said. “I went from wanting to give people benefit of the doubt because of poverty and their circumstances. But those are not the people killing rhinos, it’s organised crime syndicates and gangsters killing rhinos.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(October 24, 2012) — Former CIA agent John Kiriakou pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to crimes related to blowing the whistle on the US government’s torture of suspected terrorists and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Kiriakou, 48, agreed to admit to one count of disclosing information identifying a covert agent early Tuesday, just hours after his attorney entered a change of plea in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom outside of Washington, DC.
Kiriakou was originally charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 after he went public with the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of waterboarding on captured insurgents in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. On Monday morning, though, legal counsel for the accused former CIA agent informed the court that Kiriakou was willing to plead guilty to a lesser crime.
Initially, Kiriakou pleaded not guilty to the charge that he had outted two intelligence agents directly tied to the drowning-simulation method by going to the press with their identities.
As RT reported last week, defense attorneys had hoped that the government would be tasked with having to prove that Kiriakou had intent to harm America when he went to the media. Instead, however, prosecutors were told they’d only need to prove that the former government employee was aware that his consequences had the potential to put the country in danger.
Had Kiriakou been convicted under the initial charges filed in court, he could have been sentenced to upwards of five decades behind bars.
“Let’s be clear, there is one reason, and one reason only, that John Kiriakou is taking this plea: for the certainty that he’ll be out of jail in 2 1/2 years to see his five children grow up,” Jesselyn Raddack, a former Justice Department official who blew the whistle on Bush administration’s mishandling in the case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, wrote Tuesday.
Kiriakou, Raddack wrote, was all but certain to enter the Alexandria courthouse on Tuesday and plead guilty to the lesser charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), explaining, “there are no reported cases interpreting it because it’s nearly impossible to prove — for ‘outing’ a torturer.”
“‘Outing’ is in quotes because the charge is not that Kiriakou’s actions resulted in a public disclosure of the name, but that through a Kevin Bacon-style chain of causation, GITMO torture victims learned the name of one of their possible torturers,” Raddack wrote. “Regardless, how does outing a torturer hurt the national security of the U.S.? It’s like arguing that outing a Nazi guarding a concentration camp would hurt the national security of Germany.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former government official told Firedoglake recently that the CIA was “totally ticked at Kiriakou for acknowledging the use of torture as state policy” and allegedly outing the identity of a covert CIA official “responsible for ensuring the execution” of the water-boarding program.
Kiriakou “outted” to the reporters the identities of the CIA’s “prime torturer” under its Bush-era interrogations, Firedoglake wrote. “For that, the CIA is counting on the Justice Department to, at minimum, convict Kiriakou on the charge of leaking an agent’s identity to not only send a message to other agents but also to continue to protect one of their own.”
Former National Security Agency staffer Thomas Drake suffered a similar fate in recent years after the government went after him for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s poorly handled collection of public intelligence. A grand jury indicted Drake on five counts tied to 1917’s Espionage Act as well as other crimes, but prosecutors eventually agreed to let him off with a misdemeanor computer violation that warranted zero jail time.
Together, Drake and Kirakou are two of six persons charged under the Espionage Act during the administration of US President Barack Obama. The current White House has indicted more people under the antiquated World War 1-era legislation than all previous presidents combined.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Steve R / Occupy Boston.org & Dr. Paul Craig Roberts / Global Research – 2012-10-29 00:54:54
This Is What Democracy Looks Like?!? Steve R / Speak Out / Occupy Boston.org
(October 24, 2012) — During the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about the presidential debates. Some people bemoan one candidate or the other. Some bemoan both candidates. A few held drinking contests during the debates. After each debate, the media is full of analysis, pundits, and commentators to dissect the dialog, and to help people figure out what it all meant.
The second presidential debate was especially noteworthy — for something that happened outside the debate hall (and something that many media outlets aren’t reporting).
Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala tried to enter the debate hall, and were blocked by police officers. After being denied entrance, Stein and Honkala sat down in the street, and were subsequently arrested for obstructing traffic.
I’d love to present a long list of citations about this event, but there aren’t many to give. I first heard about it from Twitter, then read articles from the Huffington Post and the student-run Long Island Report.
This is outrageous. Stein and Honkala will be on the ballot in 38 states, and most Americans will have the opportunity to vote for them. People deserve to hear their positions, as well as the positions of other third party candidates, such as Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Constitution Party Candidate Virgil Goode, and Socialist Party USA candidate Stewart Alexander. And these aren’t the only third-party candidates running. Instead of being given options, we are being handed a charade, based on the notion that there are only two choices for president.
We have always talked about our first amendment rights. Perhaps it is time to start talking about our first amendment caveats.
â€¢ You have the right to freedom of speech. Unless you’re a third-party candidate.
â€¢ You have the right to freedom of religion. Unless you’re a Muslim
â€¢ You have the right to freedom of the press. Unless you’re a whistleblower.
Perhaps Stein and Honkala should incorporate. I’m sure they’d get more freedom of speech that way.
(October 24, 2012) — God help them if Obama and Romney ever had to participate in a real debate about a real issue at the Oxford Union. They would be massacred.
The “debates” revealed that not only the candidates but also the entire country is completely tuned out to every real problem and dangerous development. For example, you would never know that US citizens can now be imprisoned and executed without due process. All that is required to terminate the liberty and life of an American citizen by his own government is an unaccountable decision somewhere in the executive branch.
No doubt that Americans, if they think of this at all, believe that it will only happen to terrorists who deserve it. But as no evidence or due process is required, how would we know that it only happens to terrorists? Can we really trust a government that has started wars in 7 countries on the basis of falsehoods? If the US government will lie about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in order to invade a country, why won’t it lie about who is a terrorist?
America needs a debate about how we can be made more safe by removing the Constitutional protection of due process. If the power of government is not limited by the Constitution, are we ruled by Caesar? The Founding Fathers did not think we could trust a caesar with our safety. What has changed that we can now trust a caesar?
If we are under such a terrorist threat that the Constitution has to be suspended or replaced by unaccountable executive action, how come all the alleged terrorist cases are sting operations organized by the FBI? In eleven years there has not been a single case in which the “terrorist” had the initiative!
In the eleven years since 9/11, acts of domestic terrorism have been miniscule if they even exist. What justifies the enormous and expensive Department of Homeland Security? Why does Homeland Security have military-equipped Special Response Teams with armored vehicles? Who are the targets of these militarized units?
If eleven years of US government murder, maiming, and displacement of millions of Muslims hasn’t provoked massive acts of domestic terrorism, why is Homeland Security creating a domestic armed force of its own? Why are there no congressional hearings and no public discussion? How can a government whose budget is deep in the red afford a second military force with no defined and Constitutionally legal purpose?
What is Homeland Security’s motivation in creating a Homeland Youth? Is the new FEMA Corps a disguise for a more sinister purpose, a Hitler Youth as Internet sites suggest? Are the massive ammunition purchases by Homeland Security related to the raising of a nationwide corps of 18- to 24-year-olds? How can so much be going on in front of our eyes with no questions asked?
Why did not Romney ask Obama why he is working to overturn the federal court’s ruling that US citizens cannot be subject to indefinite detention in violation of the US Constitution? Is it because Romney and his neoconservative advisers agree with Obama and his advisers? If so, then why is one tyrant better than another?
Why has the US constructed a network of detainment camps, for which it is hiring “internment specialists”?
Why does the US Army now have a policy for “establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations”?
Here is Rachel Maddow’s report on how Obama criticizes the neoconservative Bush/Cheney regime for violations of the US Constitution and US statutory law and then proposes the same thing himself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8J_lcHwkvc
How did the presidential debates avoid the fact of Predator Drones flying over us here in the domestic United States of America? What is the purpose of this? Why are the smallest police forces in the most remote of locations being equipped with armored cars? I have seen them. In small lilly-white communities north of Atlanta, Georgia, communities of sub-million dollar MacMansions have militarized police with armored cars and automatic weapons. SWAT teams in full military gear are everywhere. What is it all about? These small semi-rural areas will never see a terrorist or experience a hostage situation. Yet, they are all armed to the teeth. They are so heavily armed that they could be sent into combat against the Third Reich or the Red Army.
Any such questions run afoul of the assumption of America’s moral perfection. No such debate will ever happen. But if “it is the economy, stupid,” why is there no economic debate?
Last month the Federal Reserve announced QE3. If QE1 and QE2 did not work, why does anyone, including the Federal Reserve chairman, think that QE3 will work?
Yet, the utterly irrational financial markets, which haven’t a clue about anything, were overjoyed at QE3. This can only be because what rules the equity market is propaganda, spin, and disinformation, not facts. The vaunted stock market is incapable of making any correct decision. The decisions are made by the fools in the market operating on a short-run basis. The only safe path to take is to run with the lemmings. This strategy insures that a portfolio manager is always in the middle of his peers and, therefore, he doesn’t lose clients.
How wonderful it would have been for Obama and Romney to have confronted in a real debate how QE3, designed to help insolvent “banks too big to fail,” can help households operating, with two earners, on real incomes of 45 years ago, which is where the current real median household income stands.
How does saving a bank, designated as “too big to fail,” help the family whose jobs or main job has been exported to China or India in order to maximize corporate profits, executive performance bonuses and shareholders’ capital gains?
Obviously the working population of the US has been sacrificed to the profits of the mega-rich.
An appropriate debate question is: Why has the livelihood of working Americans been sacrificed to the profits of the mega-rich?
No such question will ever be asked in a “presidential debate.”
In the 21st century, US citizens became nonentities. They are brutalized by the police whose incomes their taxes pay. They, for protesting some injustice or for no cause at all, are beaten, arrested, tasered and even murdered. The police, paid by the public, beat up paralyzed people in wheel chairs, frame those who call them for help against criminals, taser grandmothers and small children, and shoot down in cold blood unarmed citizens who have done nothing except lose control of themselves, either through alcohol, drugs, or rage.
Brainwashed Americans pay large taxes at every level of government for protection against gratuitous violence, but what their taxes support is gratuitous violence against themselves. Every American, except for the small number of mega-rich who control Washington, can be arrested and dispossessed, both liberty and property, on the basis of nothing but an allegation of a member of the executive branch who might want the accused’s wife, girlfriend, property, or to settle a score, or to exterminate a rival, or to score against a high school, college, or business rival.
In America today, law serves the powerful, not justice. In effect, there is no law, and there is no justice. Only unaccountable power.
What is the point of a vote when the outcome is the same? Both candidates represent the interests of Israel, not the interests of the US. Both candidates represent the interests of the military/security complex, agribusiness, the offshoring corporations, the suppression of unions and workers, the total demise of civil liberty and the US Constitution, which is in the way of unbridled executive power .
In the US today, the power of money rules. Nothing else is in the equation. Why vote to lend your support to the continuation of your own exploitation? Every time Americans vote it is a vote for their own obliteration.