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Shocking Snowden Revelation: US Spied on Global Climate Talks

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

The Huffington Post – 2014-01-31 23:52:38


Snowden Docs: US Spied On
Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON (January 30, 2014) — The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document, with portions marked “top secret,” indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting.

Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that “analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”

“Second Party partners” refers to the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the US has an intelligence-sharing relationship. “While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event,” the document says.

The Huffington Post published the documents Wednesday night in coordination with the Danish daily newspaper Information [See full story here] which worked with American journalist Laura Poitras.

The December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which brings together 195 countries to negotiate measures to address rising greenhouse gas emissions and their impact. The Copenhagen summit was the first big climate meeting after the election of President Barack Obama, and was widely expected to yield a significant breakthrough.

Other major developed nations were already part of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emissions limits, while the United States — the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases when the protocol went into effect in 2004 — had famously declined to join. The two-week meeting was supposed to produce a successor agreement that would include the US, as well as China, India and other countries with rapidly increasing emissions.

The document indicates that the NSA planned to gather information as the leaders and negotiating teams of other countries held private discussions throughout the Copenhagen meeting. “[L]eaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers,” the document states. The information likely would be used to brief US officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama, among others, according to the document.

The document does not detail how the agency planned to continue gathering information during the summit, other than noting that it would be capturing signals intelligence such as calls and emails. Previous disclosures have indicated that the NSA has the ability to monitor the mobile phones of heads of state.

Other documents that Snowden has released indicate that the UK’s intelligence service tapped into delegates’ email and telephone communications at the 2009 G-20 meetings in London. Other previous Snowden disclosures documented the surveillance of the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada in 2010, and the U.N. climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

The document also refers to some intelligence gathered ahead of the meeting, including a report that “detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome.” It refers to another report that “provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a ‘rescue plan’ to save COP-15.”

The Danish proposal was a draft agreement that the country’s negotiators had drawn up in the months ahead of the summit in consultation with a small number key of countries. The text was leaked to The Guardian early in the conference, causing some disarray as countries that were not consulted balked that it promoted the interests of developed nations and undermined principles laid out in previous climate negotiations.

As Information reports, Danish officials wanted to keep US negotiators from seeing the text in the weeks ahead of the conference, worried that it may dim their ambitions in the negotiations for proposed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Danes did share the text with the US and other key nations ahead of the meeting. But the NSA document noting this as “advance details” indicates that the US may have already intercepted it. The paragraph referring to the Danish text is marked “SI” in the Snowden document — which most likely means “signals intelligence,” indicating that it came from electronic information intercepted by the NSA, rather than being provided to the US negotiators.

That could be why US negotiators took the positions they did going into the conference, a Danish official told Information. “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document,” the official said. “They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”

Members of the Danish delegation indicated in interviews with Information that they thought the American and Chinese negotiators seemed “peculiarly well-informed” about discussions that had taken place behind closed doors. “Particularly the Americans,” said one official. “I was often completely taken aback by what they knew.”

Despite high hopes for an agreement at Copenhagen, the negotiations started slowly and there were few signs of progress. Obama and heads of state from more than 100 nations arrived late in the second week in hopes of achieving a breakthrough, but the final day wore on without an outcome. There were few promising signals until late Friday night, when

Obama made a surprise announcement that he — along with leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — had come up with the “Copenhagen Accord.”

The three-page document set a goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, but allowed countries to write their own plans for cutting emissions — leaving out any legally binding targets or even a path to a formal treaty. Obama called the accord “an unprecedented breakthrough” in a press conference, then took off for home on Air Force One. But other countries balked, pointing out that the accord was merely a political agreement, drafted outside the U.N. process and of uncertain influence for future negotiations.

The climate summits since then have advanced at a glacial pace; a legally binding treaty isn’t currently expected until 2015. And the US Congress, despite assurances made in Copenhagen, never passed new laws cutting planet-warming emissions. (The Environmental Protection Agency is, however, moving forward with regulations on emissions from power plants, but a new law to addressing the issue had been widely considered as preferable.)

The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future.

“It can’t help in the sense that if people think you’re trying to get an unfair advantage or manipulate the process, they’re not going to have much trust in you,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a seasoned veteran of the UN climate negotiations.

Meyer said he worried that the disclosure might cause the parties to “start becoming more cautious, more secretive, and less forthcoming” in the negotiations. “That’s not a good dynamic in a process where you’re trying to encourage collaboration, compromise, and working together, as opposed to trying to get a comparative advantage,” he said.

Obama has defended the NSA’s work as important in fighting terrorism at home and abroad. But the latest Snowden document indicates that the agency plays a broader role in protecting US interests internationally.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment directly on the Snowden document in an email to The Huffington Post, but did say that “the US Government has made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”

She noted that Obama’s January 17 speech on the NSA “laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms the Administration will adopt or seek to codify with Congress” regarding surveillance.

“In particular, he issued a new Presidential Directive that lays out new principles that govern how we conduct signals intelligence collection, and strengthen how we provide executive branch oversight of our signals intelligence activities,” Hayden said.

“It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by the President’s senior national security team.”

Read the full document here:
Deputy SINIO for Economics and Global Issues (S17)

Run Date: 12/07/2009

(U) Delegates from around the world will convene in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-15). The event is intended to be the culmination of two years of negotiations by the international community to reach consensus on legally binding commitments to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would enter into force in 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires. Over 90 world leaders, including the US President, are expected to participate.

In Copenhagen, these leaders will attempt to reach an agreement that both launches immediate action and ensures long-term commitments. However, it remains to be seen if an agreement will be reached or whether negotiations will break down entirely. Success or failure will have far-reaching effects in the areas of foreign policy, environmental issues, and energy security.

(U) Reaching a global climate-change agreement will not be easy for the delegates. The greatest challenge to the talks remains the North-South divide.

The leaders from the North — i.e., developed countries — see climate change as a problem with irreversible consequences that cannot be solved without the full participation of developing countries, especially emerging market economies.

The leaders from the South — or developing countries, led by China and India — see the climate change problem as not of their making and believe they are being asked to fix it in ways which will hamper their ability to raise their standards of living.

(U) These divisions are deep, with both sides showing few signs of compromise. During the opening session of preliminary negotiations in Barcelona last month, the 50-member Africa Group, in a show of unity, walked out, announcing that they would boycott the Kyoto Protocol talks until developed countries got serious about their climate change commitments. They ended their boycott of the talks after winning promises for more in-depth talks on how much developed countries need to reduce GHG emissions.

(U) To move the process forward, it will be necessary to bridge this divide. There are efforts underway to do this, including the Franco-Brazilian common position, which aims to reduce GHG emissions globally by at least 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

In a mid-November statement to the press, Presidents Sarkozy and Lula emphasized that they hoped to demonstrate that two countries with different national and regional situations can successfully adopt a joint position on climate change.

Meanwhile, the Danes, as host of the event, are tirelessly engaging world leaders to garner support for their draft political agreement — which was created when it became clear that the process had run out of time to reach agreement on a legally binding treaty. Supporters of this approach hope the political agreement will subsequently be transformed into a legally binding climate treaty sometime next year.

(TS//SI//REL) Analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiating strategies.

A late November report detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome. Another report provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a “rescue plan” to save COP-15.

(TS//SI//REL) Given such large participation (with all 192 UN member states invited to attend), leaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last- minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding frequent sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers.

While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

How US Used NSA to Spy on Global Environmental Talks

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

Henrik Montgomery / Information – 2014-01-31 23:49:13


For the NSA, Espionage Was
A Means to Strengthen the
US Position in Climate Negotiations

Henrik Montgomery / Information

DENMARK (January 30, 2014) — On December 7 2009, a document was posted on an internal National Security Agency (NSA) website. The document, from the agency’s division S17 for Economic and Global Issues, outlines NSA efforts to collect intelligence about the COP15, the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Its central paragraphs are classified as ‘top secret’.

The document, which Information has obtained via NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, describes how, “analysts here at NSA, as well as our second party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”

The NSA deals with signals intelligence activities, and proponents of the agency’s methods usually focus on its role in the war on terror. However, the leaked document illustrates that the NSA and its second party partners, i.e. intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australian and New Zealand, also played a central role in promoting American strategic interests.

The document is dated on the opening day of the climate summit in Copenhagen’s Bella Center. Some have called the summit the most important of its kind since the end of World War II. More than a hundred government leaders participated. Never before had so many heads of state been gathered outside the UN headquarters in New York.

A UN campaign gave Copenhagen a new name: Hopenhagen. The goal was for the world’s nations to pen a global agreement on CO2 emissions reduction in the Danish capital. An agreement designed to slow down global warming, which most scientists believe would have disastrous consequences for life on earth. As then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a speech before COP15:

“If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late.”

Pressure on the US
Enormous economic interests were at stake in the countries’ negotiation of CO2 reductions. Governments worried that commitments would slow them down in the global race to increase competitiveness and maximize growth. In order to ensure the best possible position in the negotiations, the Americans employed the technological capacities of the NSA spies.

According to another top secret document, the NSA was already involved in climate related intelligence activities several years before the COP15. The document from the S17 division was posted to the internal NSA website on May 14 2007. Then US Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, James R. Clapper, who now oversees the NSA as Director of National Intelligence, is quoted from an internal NSA conference:

“Increasingly the environment is becoming an adversary for us. And I believe that the capabilities and assets of the Intelligence Community are going to be brought to bear increasingly in assessing the environment as an adversary.”

The general theme of the document is a set of risk assessments on various effects of climate change that the entire intelligence community was working on. However, the document suggests that the NSA’s actual focus in relation to climate change was spying on other countries to collect intelligence that would support American interests, rather than preventing future climate catastrophes. It describes the US as being under pressure because of its role as the historically largest carbon emitter. A pressure to which the NSA spies were already responding:

“SIGINT (Signals Intelligence, ed.) has already alerted policymakers to anticipate specific foreign pressure on the United States and has provided insights into planned actions on this issue by key nations and leaders.”

The Danish ‘Rescue Plan’
On December 15 2007, approximately six months after the NSA mentions its warning to American decision-makers about the increased pressure on the US to reduce the country’s CO2 emissions, the countries adopted the so called Bali Road Map. The road map established the goal to reach a binding agreement on CO2 emissions reduction at the COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009.

It remains unclear precisely when the NSA began to target the summit specifically. However, the NSA document about the agency’s COP15 efforts reveals that, ahead of the summit, the agency was already collecting information about other countries’ preparation for the Copenhagen negotiations.

The document refers to a report from the end of November in which the intelligence agency “detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome.”

The document then goes on: “Another report provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a “rescue plan” to save COP-15.”

In other words, it appears that the Danish COP15 chair was one of the NSA targets before the climate summit.

Information has spoken to government officials from the Danish COP15 office, which was in charge of planning the summit. They agree that “the Danish proposal” and the “rescue plan” mentioned in the document refer to a draft agreement written up by the Danes and adjusted repeatedly in the months leading up to the event.

The proposal was controversial, because it suggested abandoning the Kyoto protocol, which legally commits the world’s richest nations to specific CO2 reductions. Ahead of the summit, the Americans had refused to commit to the protocol, whereas developing nations had demanded that the world’s wealthiest nations continue to lead the battle against global warming.

Despite the fact that Denmark was chair of the summit and as such was to facilitate discussions between the parties in a neutral manner, the Danes had produced a draft agreement ahead of COP15, which favored American interests. The draft was written on the initiative of the Prime Minister’s Office where Permanent Under-Secretary of State Bo Lidegaard was in charge of preparations for the summit.

The plan was to present the proposal during the negotiations at Copenhagen’s Bella Center. But it was to be kept strictly confidential in the months leading up to the summit. This was of great importance to the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, Connie Hedegaard. Today, as EU Commissioner for Climate Action, she does not want to comment on the Danish proposal.

However, in a book published in 2010 by now deceased journalist Per Meilstrup, which is the most thorough examination of the summit to date, Connie Hedegaard is quoted repeatedly as stressing the importance of making sure that the Americans did not see the US friendly Danish text.

Were they to see it, the minister said, there would be a great risk that they would “sit back and only feign participation in the UN negotiations because they would wait for Denmark to present the proposal.”

Don’t Show the Americans the Danish Draft
Ahead of an October 2009 visit in the Danish Prime Minister’s Office by US chief negotiator Todd Stern, Connie Hedegaard and Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen agreed that Todd Stern was not to be given the Danish draft proposal. According to Per Meilstrup, they did not want him to “go back home thinking that Denmark is going to rescue the US.”

The climate minister and her staff took special care to keep track of every paper copy of the Danish draft. If handed out, each copy was collected again at the end of the meetings. But no security precautions were taken to protect the document in electronic form.

According to Information‘s sources in the COP15 office, different versions of the non-encrypted document were emailed back and forth between employees in the ministries involved in the climate summit planning. This would make intercepting the document a relatively easy task for the NSA.

The decision at the COP15 Secretariat was to delay handing over the Danish draft to other countries for as long as possible. But we know that at some point during the weeks leading up to the summit, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Climate and Energy, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to hand over the draft to the United States, China and other key countries.

The reason was that the Danes wanted to be able to negotiate with each individual country on the basis of the draft in the remaining days before the summit itself.

Several sources from the COP15 Secretariat are of the opinion that Permanent Under-Secretary of State Bo Lidegaard had already given the draft to the Americans in spite of the decision not to disclose it. Lidegaard, now editor-in-chief at the Danish daily Politiken, denies this.

He tells Information that, according to his recollection, the Americans may have been given or shown a draft at the so-called Pre-COP in Copenhagen in the middle of November. He is certain that “in the week-end before the conference, the Danish Chair invited a large group of key countries to an informal meeting in Copenhagen, at which the United States, China and other countries were given the Danish draft.”

America Sat Back
The question is whether the Americans had already gotten hold of the Danish draft before it was handed to them few weeks before the COP15. Since the NSA’s role in the intelligence community is to provide signals intelligence, the agency itself likely intercepted the intelligence on the Danish draft by spying on key Danish officials’ electronic communication about the confidential draft agreement. The paragraph about the Danish “rescue plan” is marked ‘SI’ (Special Intelligence, ed.), the NSA term for intelligence intercepted by monitoring electronic communications.

The leaked NSA document, which is dated on the opening day of the COP15, does not specify at which point in time the agency intercepted the information. The document’s wording about “advance details”, however, suggests that the agency managed to intercept the information before the Danes gave the draft to American climate negotiators shortly before the Copenhagen summit.

It is also noteworthy that the NSA considered the intelligence about the rescue plan an example of the agency’s efforts to deliver information that is “unique, timely, and valuable.”

Several officials from the COP15 office have told Information that they believe advance American knowledge of the Danish proposal may help explain US positioning in the months leading up to the summit. While many other countries formulated promises that were increasingly ambitious, the Obama administration never moderated its position that it would not accept any agreement resembling the Kyoto protocol.

Also, the Americans only offered a 4-6 percent reduction in CO2 emissions as compared to 1990 levels, despite the fact that the UN recommendation for developed nations was 25-40 percent.

As one government official says: “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document. They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”

Intelligence for Obama
If the Danish hosts failed to pay attention to the risk of electronic spying before the climate summit, security was a much greater priority at Copenhagen’s Bella Center once the summit opened its doors on December 7 2009.

But the Danes were not aware that, on the opening day of the climate summit, the world’s most advanced intelligence agency, the NSA, described it as self-evident that the agency would be collecting signals intelligence during the summit.

The leaked document states that “leaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts – details of which are of great interest to our policymakers.”

NSA collects intelligence (p. 2)

And it adds: “Signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event.”

‘Sidebar discussions’ refer to informal and ongoing discussions between delegations from the different countries which took place in pre-booked conference rooms, in hallways, and in common areas at the conference center.

According to the document, the information collected by NSA would be used to brief American politicians, notably including President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom attended the 2009 summit.

Diplomat Phones
Logistics at the summit was handled by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the UN and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET). Together with the IT companies ATEA and CSC, the ministry had designed a whole new infrastructure for the more than 25.000 registered participants, which focused on both physical and digital security in relation to the technical installations.

The leaked NSA document does not specify how the agency and its allied partners were planning to spy on electronic communication during COP15, but subsequent disclosures based on documents from Edward Snowden provide a sense of the methods available to the spy agencies.

NSA’s close allies in the British intelligence agency GCHQ, for example, had carried out operations during two G20 summits in London in the six months leading up to the summit in Copenhagen. An internal GCHQ presentation, which is also classified as ‘top secret’, states: “Diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO of using smartphones.”

GCHQ exploits smartphones (p. 2)

The presentation goes on to describe how the agency broke hacked into delegates’ Blackberries in order to be able to read their emails and listen in on their phone conversations; how the agency installed software on computers at the summit internet cafes in order to access pass codes and emails; and how it supplied 45 analysts with data allowing them to register, in real time, who made phone calls to whom during the summit.

Little Protection
At the climate summit in Bella Center, a jumble of electronic communication was designed to enable delegates to stay in contact with one another as well as with politicians and officials in their home countries. IP phones, mobile phones, laptops and stationary computers as well as special video conferences.

In other words, a wide range of attack surfaces for the specialized hackers and analysts of the American intelligence service.

The specific details of security measures at Bella Center remain confidential but according to information obtained by this newspaper, firewall chains from several different manufacturers were installed in order to protect the internal network, and a so-called ‘ethical hacker’ tested the configuration for security holes. Also, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service swept the conference center for hidden microphones.

Recent disclosures from Edward Snowden show, however, that such measures offer little protection against the NSA. Relevant to the Danish measures, for instance, the agency has developed back doors into a number of firewalls. It also has the ability to use people’s cellphones as microphones.

And it has access to a number of sophisticated eavesdropping technologies, which are almost impossible to detect. On of them is a passive microphone, which is able to pick up speech at a normal office level from a great distance, and which transmits data by reflecting a signal from a radar placed at an appropriate distance.

Spy Rumors
The question of wiretapping is briefly mentioned in Meilstrup’s book about the summit. He writes that, “rumors abound at Bella Center about wiretapping equipment, directional microphones, leaks and diplomats who photograph secret documents with their cellphones.”

But in addition to surveillance at the event location itself and spying via the internal network, the NSA was also able to target delegate communication outside the internal network when delegates accessed the Internet and local phone networks. And, via other NSA surveillance programs disclosed by mr. Snowden, NSA was able to intercept emails, phone calls and text messages.

At the time of the summit, none of this was a known concern to any of the officials to whom Information has spoken.

“It may seem naive, but we did not consider it, and I also do not remember receiving any kind of warning about it,” says one source from the COP15 office. Several Danish delegates have told Information that during the summit, the Danes sent non-encrypted emails to each other from their laptops and cellphones about negotiation strategies that they would not want other countries’ negotiators to know about. One official reports being careful not to mention particularly sensitive issues in phone conversations.

“But I was unaware of the need to encrypt my emails,” says the official. The leaked NSA document does not specify whether NSA was intercepting confidential information specifically by spying on delegates’ email correspondence. However, there is every indication to suggest that the Americans have indeed somehow obtained access to information not intended for them.

According to Per Meilstrup, “several members of the Danish delegation often feel that the other parties are surprisingly well-informed about issues that have only been discussed behind closed doors.”

And several sources from the Danish delegation have told Information that maintaining confidentiality during the negotiations was difficult.

“Both the Americans and the Chinese were always peculiarly well-informed. Particularly the Americans. I was often completely taken aback by what they knew,” says an official from the COP15 office.

No Agreement
In the end, the world’s nations did not succeed in achieving the binding agreement on CO2 emissions reduction. The differences between the parties were too great. One gulf in particular proved insurmountable: the one between the world’s biggest CO2 emitters, China and the United States.

The Chinese did commit to significant CO2 reductions but also insisted on an agreement which would only be legally binding for the developed countries. The United States, on the other hand, maintained that such an agreement, which would have been similar to the Kyoto protocol, was unacceptable.

And while the EU tried to comply with the recommendations from the UN Climate Panel by offering a 20 percent reduction by the year 2020 in relation to 1990, and was willing to increase this number to 30 percent if a global agreement were to be reached, the Americans continued to reject a reduction above 4-6 percent.

The leak of a version of the Danish draft proposal by the British newspaper The Guardian on the second day of negotiations did not improve the negotiation climate. Developing nations criticized the Danish chairmanship for failing to remain neutral and for taking sides in the Kyoto protocol conflict. They refused to base negotiations on what they considered a proposal designed according to American interests.

In the end, however, the US managed to arrive at a result that supported American interests. On the final night of the summit, December 18, President Obama led intense negotiations between heads of states and representatives from a small group of twenty-six countries, including China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and a number of EU countries.

These negotiations resulted in the so-called Copenhagen Accord. The Copenhagen Accord was not an actual agreement but a declaration, which summit participants did not even collectively approve but merely agreed to, in UN terms, “take note” of.

The declaration did not legally obligate the countries to deliver specific CO2 emissions reductions; it did not prepare the ground for a continuation of the Kyoto protocol; and it allowed countries to define individual goals for their own CO2 reduction. In the case of the United States: the same 4-6 percent that the Americans had proposed prior to the negotiations.

Andreas Carlgren, Sweden’s Minister for the Environment and representative for the Swedish EU presidency, called the climate summit in Copenhagen a “disaster” and “a great failure.” And CNN host Becky Anderson commented: “What had been billed ‘Hopenhagen'” as delegates and activists arrived here just two weeks ago will perhaps be best remembered as ‘Brokenhagen’ by many.”

President Obama, on the other hand, referred to the Copenhagen Accord as “an important milestone” and a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.”

‘A Huge Advantage’
Today, about four years after the Copenhagen Climate Summit, it seems clear that many different factors contributed to the failure to arrive at an ambitious global climate agreement. That is the position of John Nordbo, Head of the Danish WWF Climate Program, who followed the climate summit closely.

It does, however, look obvious to him that spying could have given Americans a boost in their effort to influence the negotiations in their direction.

“It gives them incredible opportunities. In many contexts, they will know other countries’ internal agreements on how far they are willing to go. And they will know where to apply pressure, and whether to align themselves with the Danes, the Brazilians, or with some other country with shared interests. This gives them a unique position from which to manipulate things in their direction,” he says.

According to John Nordbo, the Americans seemed “very self-assured” in the period leading up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit. “They had an aura of ‘we are coming and we will get our way’. I have usually assumed that it was because they felt that they had the Danish Chairmanship in the palm of their hand, but spying could also have contributed,” he says and adds with reference to Danish draft proposal and its leaning towards US interests:

“The spying may well have helped convince the Americans that they could trust the Danes to deliver what the US wanted.”

None of the Danish delegates to whom Information has spoken wished to add to speculations about what specific information the Americans could have intercepted by spying against other countries’ delegations during the climate summit. But in the words of a central official:

“Obviously, if you know the strategies of the other countries, their thoughts on the negotiations and their bottom line in terms of how far they will go, you have a huge advantage.”

For press inquiries contact Nikolai Thyssen at nith@information.dk or contact us on Twitter at @informeren

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Propagandabook: How US Uses Fackbook’s Global Social Network to Win Hearts and Minds

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

Darwin Bond-Graham / SF Weekly – 2014-01-31 23:35:37


Propagandabook: US Government Is Expanding Its War to Win Hearts and Minds into Facebook’s Global Social Network
Darwin Bond-Graham / SF Weekly

SAN FRANCISCO (January 29, 2014) — Legend has it that one of the venture capitalists who dumped a few million into Facebook in its start-up phase was linked, by a degree or two of separation, to the Central Intelligence Agency’s private equity firm, In-Q-Tel.

Edward Snowden’s leaked trove of classified documents confirmed long-standing suspicions that Facebook, along with other tech companies, has been collaborating with the National Security Agency to spy on just about everyone on the planet, giving government spooks direct access to the company’s servers filled with rich social network data. Other tales of hushed military units engaged in info-wars through social networking sites like Facebook abound.

So it’s no surprise then that Facebook is directly involved in spreading US government propaganda to populations in Muslim countries. These are places where the American military has troops on the ground, and where powerful US corporations have oil, mineral, and other economic interests. Facebook has become another weapon in the battle for hearts and minds.

The US government already understands that Facebook has unrivaled access to foreign populations, capable of delivering content to billions of computers and smartphones. Facebook counts more than 1.5 billion Internet users, and 3 billion mobile users worldwide, with 84 percent of these users outside the United States, according to the company’s most recent annual report.

Since 2011, the government has been using Facebook to target millions of computer-savvy and smartphone-toting Iraqis, Afghanis, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and Iranians with US state-funded media — including content for web, TV, and radio news that supports American foreign policies. Facebook has earned more than $400,000 from the government’s effort to influence populations in these countries since 2009.

And if the social network proves to be an effective way for America to spread its message, this might grow into a multimillion-dollar opportunity for the Palo Alto tech titan.

“I think it’s at a very experimental phase,” says Nancy Snow, a professor of communication at California State University at Fullerton. Snow worked in the United States Information Agency (another official state information outlet) and has studied American propaganda efforts as both a practitioner and scholar. She says if Facebook reaches enough people with the state-sponsored content, the government can ask for more funds to funnel into the program.

Facebook “Likes” the Voice of America
Contracts between Facebook and the Voice of America, a major US propaganda organ, obtained by SF Weekly describe the government’s propaganda effort waged through the social network.

The VOA is run by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency led by the secretary of state and various “governors” appointed by the president. The governors are often executives drawn from the US entertainment and media industry. Many of them are major campaign donors and political insiders.

“Facebook allows us to connect with millions of potential customers at once,” reads one contract agreement with the Voice of America. The contract notes that Facebook allows the government to “choose our audience by location, age, and interests, as well as test simple image- and text-based ads and use what works.” Another contract explains that Facebook will provide the VOA with “metrics” in order to “determine the reach and effectiveness” of the government’s persuasive efforts.

VOA ads through Facebook appear in users’ news feeds and as sponsored content. The ads take advantage of the social network’s “like” function to virally spread links to US state-run media websites through the friend networks of targeted users.

One VOA Facebook advertising campaign targeted 11 million Pakistani Facebook users, steering them toward the VOA’s Urdu News Service. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, the Muslim nation whose government has been a key American ally in the war and occupation of Afghanistan, and which has allowed American drone strikes within its own territory. These policies, however, are extremely controversial within Pakistan, with millions of the nation’s people strongly opposed to the policies of the United States.

The VOA’s Urdu News Service grabs young readers with stories about Pakistani and American pop culture. One recent article on the VOA Urdu News Service website described Justin Bieber’s drunken driving escapades, pairing this with a profile of Sahir Lodhi, a Pakistani talk show host and heartthrob. These gossip columns ran alongside a “hard news” feature about a recent meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz.

The high-level conference, readers of the VOA Urdu News Service were told, is about “strengthening bilateral ties” between the US and Pakistan, “which is in the interest of both countries.” An image of the flag of the United States blending seamlessly into the flag of Pakistan accompanied the story.

Although the VOA considers itself a legitimate news organization, and says it abides by journalistic best practices, its funding comes from the federal government. Many other nations consider it raw pro-American propaganda.

“The VOA was set up during World War II and exclusively used shortwave radio to disseminate US state media,” says David Krugler, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville. “They set up permanent transmitters in the USA, and then they leased transmitters around the world to reach audiences abroad.”

These early media operations were aimed at audiences in Latin America, where the Nazis were beaming their own anti-American information. Later, the VOA focused on reaching Russians and Eastern Europeans behind the Iron Curtain with anti-Communist messages.

“Since the end of the Cold War, the Voice of America has continued to focus efforts on areas of the world where the US is engaged in open war, or war by other means,” says Krugler. “Advocates promote it as a way to win hearts and minds.”

Today, much of the VOA’s media projects target Muslim audiences in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, the epicenter of America’s global “war on terror.” Changing technology has also shifted the VOA’s operations, says Krugler. “I think they were pretty quick to get on the Internet. I remember in the 1990s you could listen to shortwave VOA broadcasts on the web.”

Since then, propaganda efforts have focused on the reach of social media, says Snow. “This is new, there’s no doubt about it,” says Snow about Facebook’s contracts with the VOA.

In 2005, there was a major push by the Bush administration to beef up the presence of American state-media in Internet chat rooms, blogs, and other Web 2.0 environments where users were actively sharing information and debating one another. “There was an emphasis on using social media to counter narratives of the enemy,” she says.

In Afghanistan, the VOA runs multiple media operations, including the news outlets VOA Dari and VOA Pashto, two regional languages. Using funding from the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the VOA also produces a TV program called Karwan (which means caravan). Karwan is hosted by Daoud Sediqi, who the VOA describes as the “Ryan Seacrest of Afghanistan.”

In September 2010, the first episode of Karwan featured a trip by Sediqi to San Francisco. In good tourist form, he visited the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown, rode on the cable cars, and treated himself to sourdough bread at the Boudin Bakery, all to showcase America as a tolerant, multi-cultural nation. The VOA purchased $20,000 in ads from Facebook last year to steer Afghanis to Facebook pages for Karwan TV.

Other Facebook contracts with the VOA are designed to promote and steer users to the VOA’s Middle East Voices page on Facebook. Middle East Voices features news and opinion created by the US government to influence the thinking of people across the Arab world, including Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and even inside the Palestinian territories. The VOA’s Persian News Network, for which there were even more Facebook ads last year, performs a similar function, but targeted to Iranian audiences.

The US government characterizes Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, as a potential source of radical Islamist movements and terrorism. Last year, the VOA spent $22,000 on Facebook ads and services to reach audiences in Indonesia with pro-American news and entertainment. It’s working. Today, VOA’s Bahasa Indonesia news services has more than 1 million “likes” on Facebook.

Pop-Propaganda: Entertainment with an Agenda
Whether getting “likes” on Facebook actually translates into effective propaganda campaigning is an open question, however. “Historically, the VOA has always had great difficulty just figuring out who was listening and what their responses were,” says Krugler. The same may be true today.

SF Weekly shared contracts between Facebook and the VOA obtained via the Freedom of Information Act with Krugler. “Maybe the great attraction of social media is that, as those contracts state, they can identify, down to each user, to a click-by-click basis, who is coming over [to VOA web sites],” he says.

Even if the messages get through using Facebook’s algorithm-powered ads and promotions, and even if the messenger is the local version of Ryan Seacrest, it’s not clear that audiences in parts of the world subject to US bombs and sanctions will be receptive to American propaganda.

“There was a survey of international broadcasting outlets in Afghanistan, shortly after the invasion [in 2001], asking people how much of a particular source they thought was news, and how much of it they thought was propaganda,” says Snow. “The VOA was deemed one-quarter news and three-quarters propaganda. Anything US-sponsored was gonna be seen with eyes of doubt.”

SF Weekly contacted Facebook but did not receive a response. It’s unclear if other nations have contracts with Facebook to disseminate state-funded and controlled media through the social network inside the United States to US residents. Russia’s RT News network has a Facebook page that counts 1.2 million “likes.” RT News is funded by the Russian government, but it’s unclear if the company is paying Facebook to spread its propaganda like the VOA.

The other big question for tech giants like Facebook is whether close business ties with US spy and propaganda agencies could hurt their business. Back in September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the government “blew it” with the NSA surveillance scandal, and that spying by the feds could economically damage global brands like Facebook.

Analysts are now saying that spy programs revealed by Edward Snowden could cause billions in lost profits for Facebook, Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley tech companies in markets abroad. Whether residents of countries like Pakistan and Indonesia will shy away from Facebook because of these revealed associations with the US government is anyone’s guess.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Is Syrian ‘Peace’ Conference Laying the Foundation for War?

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

Kevin Zeese / AntiWar.com & Rania Khalek / Al Jazeera America – 2014-01-31 23:32:30


Is Syrian ‘Peace’ Conference Laying the Foundation for War?
Kevin Zeese / AntiWar.com

(January 31, 2014) — The Geneva II conference which claims to be seeking to end the war in Syria seems designed to fail and instead to provide an excuse for military intervention by the United States and its allies. Human rights activist, Ajamu Baraka, describes the negotiations as an “Orwellian subterfuge” designed to provide justification for war and a lot of facts support his view.

The negotiations are destined to fail because of the way they have been set up and the preconditions of the United States and its allies in the Syrian opposition demanding that President Bashar al-Assad agree to leave government before negotiations go forward.

The setup for failure begins with the limited participation. The rigged nature of the negotiations was demonstrated when the UN had to rescind an invitation to Iran to participate at the demand of the United States and the Syrian opposition group.

Iran is a close ally of Syria and keeping them out of the negotiations is an effort to weaken and isolate Syria. It is an indication of a desire by the United States for a preordained conclusion rather than a fair negotiation between the parties.

The exclusion of Syrian civil society from these negotiations, beyond the militant fighters, is especially egregious. Many of these groups were working for transformation of Syria before the terrorism and war began.

One example is the exclusion of woman, although women from across Syria have been meeting and put together a Syrian Women’s Charter for Peace, their request to be included in the talks has been denied. Women and children comprise the majority of the millions who have been internally displaced or forced to flee the country. And they have suffered in horrible ways.

Only one opposition group is included, the Syrian National Coalition, one favored by the United States but rejected by 13 key rebel groups in Syria. There are scores of others involved in the bloodshed in Syria, but these on-the-ground fighters are not included. How can peace, even a partial peace like a cease-fire, be negotiated if those involved in the fighting are not participating?

In fact, an agreement by the participants to stop fighting would entrap Assad. Groups not included in the negotiations will continue to fight and Assad will respond. When Assad responds to attacks, he will be accused of violating the peace agreement. This will provide an excuse for outside military intervention. The US and its allies will claim: “Assad is violating the peace agreement; there is no other choice than to enforce the agreement with military force.”

The second and most important problem with the negotiations is the precondition of the United States and the Syrian National Coalition that Assad must agree to step down before negotiations can begin.

The US and its allies falsely claim that the removal of Assad has already been agreed to the “Geneva communiqué” signed by Syria’s ally, Russia. As Shamus Cooke points out, the communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition must exclude Assad.

US Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off the conference by demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power. And, this has become the central issue in the discussions so far, leading to a stalemate. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, accused the US and its Middle East allies, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, of supporting terrorist groups seeking to destabilize Syria and working to put forward their own plans for a new government.

The Syrians put forward their own plan that would begin with ridding the nation of foreign terrorists. They argue it is up to the Syrian people to decide who their leaders are and what type of government they want.

The kickoff of the conference coincided with a propaganda campaign. A report funded by Qatar claimed the Assad government had tortured and killed 11,000 prisoners. There has been a history of torture in Syria; in fact, the United States sent people to be tortured in Syria as part of its rendition program, so on its face the claim does not seem far-fetched. But did they prove the case?

Reporter Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor points out some of the problems with the report. He writes it is “a single source report, from an unidentified man, who is related by marriage to a similarly unidentified member of the ‘Syrian National Movement.'” The Syrian National Movement is an opposition group funded by Qatar that has been trying to remove Assad since 2011.

Further, the report was rushed to publication; the source was “interviewed on Jan. 12, 13 and 18 of this year. The report was provided to reporters yesterday, Jan. 20.” This resulted in no thorough examination of the photographs. Further, Murphy reports the document actually indicates 835 individual cases were examined, not all of them were shown to have been killed or tortured, and the 11,000 figure that made headlines was an extrapolation.

Yet, this has been trumpeted in the media as fact. A Washington Post editorial published on January 22 treated the 11,000 killed and tortured by Assad without any doubt. They quote Secretary Kerry saying the report shows Syria conducting “systematic torture and execution of thousands of prisoners.”

The editorial revealed how the peace process could lead to war: “Mr. Obama probably could force the measures Mr. Brahimi is seeking [i.e. Assad resigning] by presenting Mr. Assad with the choice of accepting them or enduring US airstrikes.” It is notable that the Post is putting military strikes on the agenda now — even before the negotiations fail or a peace agreement is violated.

The US media had been pushing for war with Syria during the last run-up to war when Obama decided to send the decision to Congress. Thanks to opposition across the political spectrum in Congress and among the American people, the war was prevented. Russia’s intervention which put forward a compromise that ridded the Syrian government of chemical weapons provided a face-saving escape for the Obama administration.

Since then the claims that Sarin gas was used by the Syrian government from Syrian-held territory have been put into doubt. The New York Times, Human Rights Watch and others who favored a US attack had claimed the rockets came from Syrian territory based on a vector analysis of the angle of the rockets. But, this fell apart when experts concluded the rockets did not have the range to reach the targets. The NY Times was forced to quietly distance itself from a front page story making these claims.

We are already seeing a media drum beat for war gearing up. The media is consistent in repeating several lies about the Syrian negotiations, and constantly blaming Assad for refusing to abide by nonexistent requirements of the Geneva communiqué. We can expect the hawkish US media to escalate the drumbeat and put forward war propaganda as the failure of the peace negotiations continues.

And Reuters reports that weapons aid to Syria has been “secretly” approved by Congress. Weapons approved include antitank weapons and small arms. Reuters writes “The weapons deliveries have been funded by the US Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30. . .”

How does the Congress have secret votes to approve war-making actions? According to Reuters “Congress approved funding for weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation, two sources familiar with the matter said.”

So, on one hand the US claims to be seeking peace and with the other it is fueling war with weapons. In public, the Congress opposed war with Syria, but in secret votes it provides funding for weapons for the Syrian war.

Americans who oppose war better get prepared now. There has been a long-term agenda to remove the Assad family from power in Syria and the US foreign policy establishment has not given up on that goal, nor have US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. This seems to be one more time when peace negotiations are a likely prelude to war unless the people of the United States see through these actions and prevent it.

This article was originally published on Truthout. We discussed these matters in detail with Ajamu Baraka and Alli McCracken of CODEPINK on our radio show, Clearing The FOG, this week. You can listen here.

Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD are participants in PopularResistance.org; they co-direct It’s Our Economy and co-host Clearing the FOG. Their twitters are @KBZeese and MFlowers8.

Syria’s Nonviolent Resistance Is Dying To Be Heard
Rania Khalek / Al Jazeera America & Popular Resistance

(September 12th, 2013) — Many civil society activists who continue to defy the Assad regime are not convinced by the case for US air strikes

Much of the debate over US intervention in Syria boils down the conflict there to a clash between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and an armed rebellion in which al-Qaeda affiliates play a significant role. Typically ignored in that conversation are the voices of the non-violent opposition movement that took to the streets to challenge Assad in March 2011, and which has persisted against great odds.

“No matter how beleaguered it is, civil resistance continues,” says Mohja Kahf, a Professor of Middle East studies and literature at the University of Arkansas and a member of the Syrian Non Violence Movement (SNVM). A network of peaceful groups remains active in opposition to the regime inside Syria, their activities plotted by SNVM on an interactive map that can be viewed online.

Although it was the activists in such groups that originally drove the nationwide uprising against the Assad regime, these days much of their activity involves triage, mitigating the impact of the civil warand building the capacity for self-governance in towns no longer under regime control.

Reem Salahi, a Syrian-American civil rights attorney who spent time in Syria over the summer, witnessed a flourishing alternative media infrastructure, grassroots councils to run local government and organize humanitarian relief in areas vacated by the regime, and projects such as the Karama Bus — or “bus of dignity” — which travels around Idlib province offering psycho-social support for internally displaced children. “For Syrians living in Syria, just surviving and engaging in daily activities is a form of opposition, a form of activism,” said Salahi.

Many such efforts are funded by the Syrian diaspora. Rafif Jouejati, a Syrian-American activist organizing solidarity work describes its results as including schools in Idlib, media centers in Aleppo, relief-distribution in Homs and a planned water-treatment facility in Deir Ezzor.

And while many Syrians who first engaged in peaceful protest later turned to arms in the face of the regime’s crackdown, others continue to do non-violent political work. Their views on the question of proposed US military strikes to punish the Assad regime for a suspected chemical-weapons attacktwo weeks ago are ambivalent.

Somar Kanjo, 30, joined the first wave of protests in Damascus in the spring of 2011, then fled to his hometown of Saraqeb in the northern Idlib province. While he has dedicated himself to non-violent projects such as producing educational materials for displaced children in rebel-controlled areas, Kanjo supports those who have joined rebel fighting groups. “I’m against being armed, but it was necessary,” he told Al Jazeera by phone from Turkey, where he was visiting his parents. “The regime made it necessary.”

Since it fell to rebel forces over a year ago, Saraqeb has been a target of relentless government shelling, which is why, according to Kanjo, most Syrians in the town welcome US military intervention.

But in Damascus, most of which remains under regime control, even many opponents of the regime also oppose US intervention, according to Khaled Harbash.

Harbash, 21, joined the uprising in April 2011 by helping to organize demonstrations as head of the Hama Civil Team. He moved to Damascus last year, where he has continued to engage in political activism with Building the Syrian State Current, a non-violent opposition group whose members organize meetings and democracy-building workshops among Syrian youth in hopes of building an inclusive foundation for a post-Assad government.

The Current opposes outside intervention and armed opposition and favors a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Though it operates independently of the internationally recognized opposition groups, its members inside Syria continue to be targeted by the Assad regime.

Harbash is equally disdainful of all outside parties engaged in Syria’s conflict. Russia, the Gulf states, the West and Turkey are all “part of the problem and complicit in the crimes committed against civilians in Syrian villages and cities,” Harbash said. “What started as interference is now an assault on Syria’s sovereignty.”

He fears that outside intervention prolongs Syria’s war and could turn the country into “a failed state.”

“The United States is not an international judge who can punish and forgive as they please,” said Harbash. “Any military strike would not be against the regime, but against the entire country. And Syrians who for two and a half years have suffered from the war will bear the consequences.”

Osama Nasser, 35, is an activist with the SNVM who recently moved from Damascus — where he’d been in hiding — to East Ghouta, the rebel-controlled area targeted in the alleged gas attack two weeks ago.

Although he also opposes the proposed punishment strike over the Ghouta attack, he’s angrier that the international community had done nothing to stop the violence that has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past two and a half years. “The West cares only about its reputation or its image,” he said, “not about innocent lives slaughtered every single day.”

Nasser has little faith in a limited US action that will leave the regime intact. “Besides,” he says, “the history of such intervention doesn’t show that this will bring peace or democracy for the country.”

When asked why he committed to nonviolent resistance instead of joining the armed rebellion, Nasser said: “I believe in people power. Arms don’t bring democracy.”

Building the Syrian State Current co-founder Rim Turkmani, based in London, argues that a US military strike will exacerbate the bloodshed, emboldening more extreme elements of the armed rebellions and hampering the civil society resistance she sees as the vital foundation of a future democratic Syria.

“This is not a regime that you can remove with military confrontation from the air without killing millions,” she told Al Jazeera. “We want to force the regime through a political solution to start sharing power to put the country on the path to democracy.”

Ending the war through diplomatic means, says Turkmani, is the only way to weaken both the Assad regime and the al-Qaeda-linked groups because it will open up a space for the non-violent resistance that initiated the uprising to reassert itself.

But Reem Salahi believes that the strength and influence of al-Qaeda groups in the rebellion has been exaggerated. “The Syrians I met didn’t like these foreign fighters,” she said. So much so that residents in some rebel-held areas have demonstrated against extremist fighters. Earlier this year, the town of Mayadeen erupted in protests as residents demanded that fighters from the al-Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front leave their town.

Still, Salahi is ambivalent about US military strikes. “I reject this binary analysis of do we strike or not strike,” she explained. “For me it’s about how we end the bloodshed.” Still, Salahi sympathizes with Syrians who support US strikes, saying, “It breaks my heart that the only hope that a lot of Syrians I’ve met is the dropping of foreign bombs.”

Despite their ambivalence over the prospect of US military strikes in Syria, many of the non-violent opposition activists are skeptical of some of the arguments against intervention coming from the antiwar left in the West.

“I need for people who are against the strikes to understand that there are valid reasons and invalid reasons to be against the strikes,” said Kahf, who strongly opposes US strikes and advocates instead for diplomacy.

“Wringing your hands and screaming al-Qaeda or Iraq is not a valid reason. You need to get to know Syria, and not deny the legitimate struggle of the Syrian people and not equate rebel atrocities with hugely exponentially greater regime atrocities.”

Kahf has written that many in the antiwar left ignore the grassroots base of the Syrian uprising, viewing it “only through the endgame of geopolitics,” a narrative that turns the uprising into “nothing but the proxy of US imperialism” — a view she strenuously rejects. Instead, she and others argue that making sense of Syria, today more than ever, demands that more attention be paid to the opposition voices of Syrian civil society whose voices have been increasingly drowned out by the sounds of war.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Thirty-three Latin American and Caribbean Countries Sign “Zone of Peace” Declaration

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

Agence France-Presse & Timur Zolotoev / Global Research – 2014-01-31 02:18:15


(January 29, 2014) — Regional leaders declared a “zone of peace” in Latin America and the Caribbean Wednesday at a summit in Havana that also showcased Cuba’s emergence from international isolation.

“I solemnly proclaim Latin America and the Caribbean as a ‘zone of peace,'” Cuban President Raul Castro told representatives of 33 countries, not including the United States and Canada, which were not invited.

As part of the proclamation, the region’s leaders pledged not to resort to force for the resolution of conflicts among them. Although largely spared wars over the past century, border disputes abound in the region and many countries have suffered civil wars and bloody insurgencies fueled by Cold War rivalries.

Among the heads of state and government attending the summit were the presidents of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, and Peru’s Ollanta Humala, whose countries this week received a World Court ruling on a longstanding maritime boundary dispute.

They were expected to meet on the sidelines of the summit for the first time since the ruling in the Hague.

The two-day summit was to close Wednesday with a “declaration of Havana” affirming the region’s “unity within diversity.”

“The creation of a common political space is of primordial importance to advance our objective of peace and respect among nations, in order to overcome natural barriers and those imposed on us,” said Castro.

Cuba’s communist regime received numerous expressions of solidarity during the summit and the final communique was expected to condemn the more than 50-year-old US trade embargo on the island.

Among those in attendance were the secretary general of the Organization of American States, a Washington-based regional security group that expelled Cuba in 1962 but reinstated it in 2009. Also taking part was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Castro has taken strides to open Cuba’s Soviet-style state-controlled economy, but the regime brooks no political opposition.

Cuban rights groups reported more than 100 dissidents were taken in for questioning to prevent their meeting during the summit.

Unlike previous international gatherings in Havana, none of the presidents attending the summit sought to meet with dissidents, although the Costa Rican embassy received a visit from a delegation led by a prominent dissident, Elizardo Sanchez.

Ban on Tuesday said he raised the problem of “arbitrary arrests” with Castro.

Cuba also used the summit to pay homage to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who was a driving force behind the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States. Castro is to turn over the rotating presidency of the group to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

Background: 33 Latin American Countries to Form a New Bloc. US and Canada Not invited

(December 4, 2011) — Thirty-three Latin American leaders have come together and formed a new regional bloc, pledging closer economic and political ties. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) pointedly excludes the US and Canada.

On the second day of a summit in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, all Latin American leaders, both right and left, officially signed into effect the formation of the CELAC bloc. The foundation of the bloc has been praised as the realization of the two-centuries-old idea of Latin American “independence” envisioned by Simon Bolivar.

Analysts view CELAC as an alternative to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) and as an attempt by Latin American countries to reduce US influence in the region.
“As the years go by, CELAC is going to leave behind the old and worn-out OAS,” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said at the inauguration of the bloc on Friday.

“It’s the death sentence for the Monroe Doctrine,” said Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said.

However Washington does not see CELAC as a replacement to OAS. US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said the US will continue “to work through the OAS as the pre-eminent multilateral organization, speaking for the hemisphere.”

Political analyst Omar Jose Hassan Farinas told RT’s Spanish channel the US views CELAC as a potential threat to its hegemony in the region.

Chavez also read out statement opposing the US trade embargo on Cuba. Havana, which is not a member of the OAS, has joined the new regional bloc.

“No more interference. Enough is enough! We have to take shape as a center of the world power and demand respect for all of us as community and for each one of our countries,” Venezuelan leader said.

The 33 leaders pledged to withstand the financial crisis that has struck Europe and other developed countries.

Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff stressed that the Latin American countries would need to rely more on their neighbors amid the global economic turmoil.

“The economic, financial crisis should be at the center of our concerns,” Rousseff said Friday night. She said Latin America should “realize that to guarantee its current cycle of development despite the international economic turbulence, it means that every politician must be aware that each one needs the others.”

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who assumed the initial rotating presidency at CELAC, expressed hopes that the bloc would help build regional cooperation despite the differences between some of the 33 member states.

The leaders also discussed cooperation in the field of drug trafficking and climate change.

CELAC should be a “political union to build a large power center of the 21st century,” the Venezuelan president said, stressing strong regional growth as many countries in the region develop closer ties with Asia or Europe and reduce their traditional reliance on the US.

The formation of CELAC was warmly welcomed by rising global power, China. Chavez read aloud a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulating the leaders on forming the new bloc.

Hu pledged to deepen cooperation with the CELAC and underlined that in the 21st century the relations between China and Latin America have seen all-round and fast development with expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation, according to Xinhua news agency.

The countries of CELAC have a combined population of nearly 600 million people, and a combined GDP of about $6 trillion — about a third of the combined output of the US and Canada.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Thailand: US Sides With Increasingly Violent, Desperate Regime

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

Tony Cartalucci / All Thai News & Global Research – 2014-01-31 02:14:58

Thailand: US Sides With Increasingly Violent, Desperate Regime

Thailand: US Sides With Increasingly Violent, Desperate Regime
Tony Cartalucci / All Thai News & Global Research

(January 29, 2014) — The US State Department openly sided with Thaksin Shinawatra and his proxy regime, and backed their planned one-party sham elections being carried out in a climate of political intimidation, terrorism, assassinations, and a draconian “emergency decree” in a statement released after protests disrupted polls across the country Sunday.

The US State Department’s statement read:

The United States is deeply troubled by efforts to block polls and otherwise prevent voting in Thailand, and by the most recent acts of political violence. While we do not take sides in the political dispute and strongly support freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest, preventing citizens from voting violates their universal rights and is inconsistent with democratic values.

We reiterate our call for all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and commit to sincere dialogue to resolve political differences peacefully and democratically.

Video: The brazen assassination of anti-Thaksin protest leader Suthin Taratin in broad daylight last Sunday appears to be ok with the United States and all part of “democratic values” it promotes globally.

Posted by Roy Van on Jan 26, 2014
I was making a video, then the shooting starts! Did not knew what i captured till the news came on and i realized this was big news.

Viparam Hospital has confirmed Suthin Taratin from NSPRT died. He was shot in the head. May he rest in peace. My condolence to the family.


The United States does not, however, seem deeply troubled by the broad daylight assassination that took place the same day of a core protest leader, or the savagery of the regime’s “red shirts” who had threatened to employ armed violence against any who opposed up coming sham elections — and then promptly did so the very next day.

Additionally, the US fails to feel deeply troubled over how “democratic values” have been blatantly abused to dress up an overt dictatorship run, by the ruling party’s own admission, by accused mass murderer, convicted criminal and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin Shinawatra was neither on the ballot in 2011, nor even in the country, yet openly runs the party through his nepotist appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Both Forbes and the New York Times published direct quotes from the ruling party’s leadership inside of Thailand, and from Thaksin Shianwatra himself, declaring that he was ruling the country remotely.

The New York Times openly admits that Thailand is currently run by unelected convicted criminal/fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra. Clearly any proxy government or elections in which it participates in are illegitimate by both Thai and international standards. Thaksin’s foreign ties are what have afforded him impunity regarding an otherwise cartoonish, 3rd world dictatorship.


There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2 year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy. Being unelected, Thaksin Shinawatra is by all accounts a dictator, and his “government” a regime, however cleverly they try to dress it up.

Blocking polls that seek to give this criminal regime a new mandate, in this context, not only seems reasonable, but absolutely necessary to break Thaksin Shinawatra’s grip on power. Protesters have been in the streets for months now, and are in week 3 of their “Occupy Bangkok” campaign.

The US State Department and legions of Western journalists have also failed to condemn other regime-sanctioned thuggery that has been ongoing throughout the recent political crisis.

The regime’s “red shirts,” in addition to using armed violence against protesters, have now turned their threats and intimidation toward farmers who had recently begun blocking roads after being cheated for nearly half a year from promised rice subsidies that have evaporated in the midst of a corrupt and bankrupted vote-buying scam.‬

Rice farmers in Phitsanulok province were threatened by regime “red shirts” to end their protest. Often cited by the Western media in their “class divide” narrative, it is now clear the nation’s farmers were simply used to get Thaksin Shinawtra back into power, and that the violence and intimidation usually reserved for his political opponents is now being turned on them in the wake of being cheated by his vote-buying rice subsidy scam. Rice farmers have already turned in their rice, but have not been paid for it for almost half a year.


In Bangkok Post‘s article, “Farmers end protest in Phitsanulok,” it states:
In an emotional address to protesters, Mr Chatree said both local red-shirts and community leaders tried to pressure him to end the protest, on orders from high-level officials.

The red-shirts threatened to hurt his family if he continued to lead the rally seeking money for unpaid farmers including for himself, he said.

The Bangkok Post would also report:
Several tearful farmers shouted angrily that they had no money to buy food or to send their children to school because the government has failed to pay them for rice sold under its subsidy scheme. They said the situation had also forced them to borrow money from loan sharks.

Rice farmers on Tuesday agreed to end their rally at the Indochina intersection in Muang district after a two-day protest demanding the caretaker government pay them for crops pledged under the government’s subsidy scheme.

Several tearful farmers shouted angrily that they had no money to buy food or to send their children to school because the government has failed to pay them for rice sold under its subsidy scheme. They said the situation had also forced them to borrow money from loan sharks.

If not for the US’ deep investment in Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine, it would be otherwise inexplicable as to why the West so adamantly supports such unjust, violent, and festering despotism.

That rice farmers were promised subsidies for their votes in 2011, cheated, left unpaid, and now intimidated from voicing their concerns, especially on the eve of elections, is a feature of dictatorship, not democracy.

While the US has no problems condemning elections it claims are “shams” or for “show,” such as inSaddam’s Iraq, or Kim Jong Ill’s North Korea, it clearly does so not based on “democratic values,” but on the targeted regime’s utility in advancing the corporate-financier interests that dominate the West.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Poll: Grim Assessment of Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

Susan Page / USA TODAY – 2014-01-31 01:57:58


WASHINGTON (January 31, 2014) — As two of the nation’s longest wars finally end, most Americans have concluded that neither achieved its goals.

Those grim assessments in a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center poll underscore the erosion in support for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the loss of faith in the outcome of the wars, both launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The public’s soured attitudes may make it harder the next time a president tries to persuade Americans of the value of military action when it involves putting thousands of US troops in harm’s way.

In the survey:
* On Iraq, Americans by 52%-37% say the United States mostly failed to achieve its goals. That is a decidedly more negative view than in November 2011, when US combat troops withdrew. Then, by 56%-33%, those surveyed said the US had mostly succeeded.

* On Afghanistan, Americans by a nearly identical 52%-38% say the US has mostly failed to achieve its goals. In 2011, a month after Osama bin Laden was killed, a majority predicted the war would succeed.

“What is especially interesting about these responses is that the public has continued to update its views on Iraq and Afghanistan despite the fact that these wars have received virtually no attention at all from our politicians over the past couple of years,” said Christopher Gelpi, a political scientist at Ohio State University who has studied attitudes toward the conflicts. “This shows that the public is more attentive to costly wars than we might expect, even when politicians try to ignore the conflicts.”

In recent months, news reports from Iraq have centered on renewed fighting with al-Qaeda fighters and a government riven along sectarian lines. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has resisted American demands to sign a security agreement setting out the US role once combat forces are withdrawn by the end of the year.

Americans continue to distinguish between the two conflicts when it comes to the justification made for using military force.

By 10 percentage points, 51%-41%, Americans say the US made the right decision in using military force in Afghanistan, where the Taliban had provided safe haven for the al-Qaeda terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks. Still, that narrow majority does reflect a significant shift in views. In 2006, two-thirds of Americans said invading Afghanistan was the right decision.

But when it comes to Iraq, support for the decision to go to war has crashed. The invasion was launched in March 2003 with Bush administration officials asserting President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, though they were never found. At the beginning, Americans by 3-1 called it the right decision.

Now, by 50%-38%, they call it the wrong one.

The poll of 1,504 adults taken Jan. 15-19 has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

The biggest shift in attitudes toward the Iraq War came among Republicans and those who lean to the GOP. In 2011, 65% of them said the war had succeeded; now just 38% do. A double-digit gap between Republican and Democrat views in 2011 has now been largely erased.

There is a difference in partisan attitudes, though. More Republicans say it was right to use military force in Iraq (52%) than those who say the war had succeeded (38%). But more Democrats say the war succeeded (36%) than say it was the right decision to go to war (28%).

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama — who won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 in part because he had opposed the Iraq War — took credit for the drawdown in US combat forces during his tenure.

“When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Obama said. “Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. . . . Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.”

The most sustained ovation of the evening came when the president paid tribute to Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was seriously wounded during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan. He was seated in the House gallery with Michelle Obama.

“As this time of war draws to a close,” Obama said, “a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life.”

In a study of the impact of Afghanistan on the 2012 election, Ohio State’s Gelpi found that the war’s casualties didn’t affect voter choices because Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney had similar stances. However, casualties in Afghanistan were linked to lower voter turnout in communities that suffered them.

“We think that the failure of politicians to respond to an issue that voters cared about — the casualties of war — discouraged involvement in the election,” he said.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Jose Mujica, the Poorest President in the World, Condemns the Business Suit

January 31st, 2014 - by admin

BBC Mundo & Peter Orsi / Associated Press – 2014-01-31 01:55:39


The Poorest President in the World
Video produced by BBC Mundo’s Vladimir Hernandez and Gerardo Lissardy

(November 15, 2012) — The President of Uruguay Jose Mujica has been dubbed by international media as ‘the poorest president in the world’. In his latest official declaration of wealth, he says he owns just two vehicles, a small amount of property and his farmhouse. He donates 90% of his salary to charity. Mujica became president of Uruguay after a landslide victory more than two years ago.

Uruguay President Rails against the Business Suit
Peter Orsi / Associated Press

HAVANA (January 29, 2014) — War! Imperialism! Racism! Formal attire!

One after another, the leaders of Latin America denounced the ills of the world at a regional summit in Cuba on Wednesday.

It fell to famously casual Jose Mujica, the Uruguayan president, to tackle a subtler evil plaguing humankind: the business suit.

“We have to dress like English gentlemen!” exclaimed Mujica, clad in a rumpled white shirt. “That’s the suit that industrialization imposed on the world!”

“Even the Japanese had to abandon their kimonos to have prestige in the world,” he continued, gesturing forcefully and rapping a pen on the table to punctuate his words. “We all had to dress up like monkeys with ties.”

Mujica’s tirade was a light moment in an otherwise mostly sober gathering of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that focused on hunger, poverty and inequality.

But Mujica was also trying to make a serious point: That Latin American leaders must stay faithful to their cultural roots and not alienate the common man in a region where the wealthy are a tiny minority.

Mujica is known for his homespun oratory, cantankerous personality and insistence on living simply in a world of conspicuous consumption.

Even as president, he still lives on a small, ramshackle flower farm with his wife. He gives away nine-tenths of his salary, doesn’t have a bank account and drives a VW Beetle that’s more than four decades old.

“To be free you have to have time, a little bit of time, to live, to cultivate the three, four, five unquestionable, fundamental things that are important in life,” he said in Havana. “All the rest is noise and fuss.”

Mujica is also famous for never wearing a tie.

Wednesday was no exception.

Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.

Songs of Peace and Protest: Remembering Pete Seeger

January 30th, 2014 - by admin

Megan Gibson / Time Magazine – 2014-01-30 01:08:52


(January 29, 2014) — Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger — who inspired countless musicians from Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello — died on Monday, Jan. 27, at the age of 94.

Throughout Seeger’s career, which spanned seven decades, he released more than 40 albums (including two in 2013). But Seeger wasn’t just prolific: He used his music to support a litany of political causes and movements, becoming known as a thoughtful and thought-provoking writer and performer of left-wing political anthems.

Whether as a solo performer or as part of the groups The Weavers and The Almanac Singers, Seeger’s songs influenced several social movements of the 20th century, with many of his most famous songs centering on themes of war, labor rights and civil rights.

Despite battling censorship and charges of communism in McCarthy-era America, Seeger was able to push political folk songs into the mainstream, although he occasionally had help from other acts. The Kingston Trio version of Seeger’s anti-war song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” — sung in the clip above by Seeger himself — reached the Top 40 in 1962.

Here are just a few examples of Seeger’s pivotal songs that championed peace and change:

“We Shall Overcome”
Seeger, along with Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Zilphia Horton, adapted an old gospel song by adding lines and tweaking lyrics to produce the folk composition “We Shall Overcome”

in the 1950s. (While those four hold the copyright to the version, Seeger later stated in interviews that other singers were involved in the creation of the song.) “We Shall Overcome” — with its focus on peaceful resilience — went on to become an unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement; it was often sung at rallies and protests by Seeger and other supporters.

“If I Had A Hammer”
Written by Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949, “If I Had A Hammer” wasn’t a hit initially — but its defiantly progressive lyrics caught on over a decade later: Peter, Paul and Mary’s 1962 version of the song hit the Top 10.

“Talking Union”
Written in 1941 by Seeger, Millard Lampell and Lee Hays, who were all part of the group The Almanac Singers, “Talking Union” was an almost literal guide to union-building. The workers’ rights anthem was released on The Almanac Singers’ 1941 album of the same name, which the Library of Congress thought significant enough to add to the National Recording Registry in 2010.

“Waist Deep In The Big Muddy”
Seeger wrote this anti-war song in 1967, when many Americans were beginning to strongly question the war in Vietnam. With its lyrics about a platoon being led into danger by an ignorant captain, the song’s anti-war message was obvious — the line “the big fool said to push on” is repeated several times.

The song’s place in history was cemented after a television show attempted to censor Seeger’s performance of it; the New York Times writes that Seeger “performed the song during a taping of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

in September 1967, his return to network television, but it was cut before the show was broadcast. After the Smothers Brothers publicized the censorship, Mr. Seeger returned to perform the song for broadcast in February 1968.”

“Turn! Turn! Turn!”
Taking lines from the Book of Ecclesiastes, mostly word for word, Seeger set them to music in the late 1950s to create, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).” Apart from the “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in the chorus, the only words Seeger added to the song was the last phrase in the closing line: “A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” That addition marked the song as a peace anthem and the song found chart success when The Byrds released their version in 1965 — it reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

A London-based correspondent, Megan Gibson has been with TIME since 2010. She covers society, politics, culture and everything in between.

In Closing: Harry Belafonte’s
Extraordinary Tribute to Pete Seeger

And, Finally, Pete’s Rare Solo Performance of ‘Wimoweh'”

Leaked Official Document Records 330 Drone Strikes in Pakistan

January 30th, 2014 - by admin

Alice K Ross / The Bureau of Investigative Journalism – 2014-01-30 00:28:17


Leaked Official Document Records 330 Drone Strikes in Pakistan
Alice K Ross / The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

‘It’s certainly of concern that almost all mention of non-combatant casualties simply disappears from this document after 2009, despite significant evidence to the contrary.’
— Chris Woods

(January 29, 2014) — The Bureau is today publishing a leaked official document that records details of over 300 drone strikes, including their locations and an assessment of how many people died in each incident.

The document is the fullest official record of drone strikes in Pakistan to have yet been published. It provides rare insight into what the government understands about the campaign.

It also provides details about exactly when and where strikes took place, often including the names of homeowners. These details can be valuable to researchers attempting to verify eyewitness reports — and are often not reported elsewhere.

But interestingly, the document stops recording civilian casualties after 2008, even omitting details of well-documented civilian deaths and those that have been acknowledged by the government.

Last July the Bureau published part of the document for the first time. This documented strikes, which hit the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan between 2006 and late 2009, and revealed that the Pakistani government was aware of hundreds of civilian casualties, even in strikes where it had officially denied civilians had died.

The reports are based on information filed to the FATA Secretariat each evening by local Political Agents — senior officials in the field. These agents gather the information from networks of informants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the area bordering Afghanistan.

Now the Bureau has obtained an updated version of the document, which lists attacks up to late September 2013.

The document contains estimates of how many people have been killed in each strike, as well as whether the dead are ‘local’ or ‘non-local’ — a broad category that includes those from elsewhere in Pakistan, as well as foreigners.

When the Bureau released the first part of the report last summer, anonymous US officials attacked the document, claiming that the report was ‘far from authoritative’ as it was based on ‘erroneous media reporting’ and ‘indirect input from a loose network of Pakistani government and tribal contacts’. But the US has consistently refused to release information on what it believes has been the result of its drone strikes.

The overall casualties recorded by the document are broadly similar to those compiled by the Bureau, which uses sources including media reports, sworn affidavits and field investigations. The Bureau estimates that at least 2,371 people died in the time covered by the document (excluding 2007, which is missing from the record), while it records 2,217 deaths in total.

The document does not represent the Pakistani government’s full view of drone strikes. Alongside the Political Agents and their daily reports to the FATA Secretariat, the country’s intelligence agencies and military are each believed to collect details of attacks in separate reports. And during a recent trip to Pakistan the Bureau obtained a list of individuals killed in a single strike from a local politician.

The Pakistani government has made a series of statements on drone casualties: in March last year, officials at the Foreign Affairs ministry told UN expert Ben Emmerson, who was carrying out an investigation into drones, that at least 400 civilians — and possibly 600 — were among 2,200 drone casualties. In October, the Ministry of Defence issued a statement that contradicted this, asserting that drones had killed 67 civilians since 2008. It later retracted the statement, with unnamed senior defence officials telling The News International that the figures were ‘wrong and fabricated’.

The document obtained by the Bureau is unusual because it gives a strike-by-strike account, allowing for comparison between the government’s view of individual incidents and that of other sources.

Civilian Casualties
Although the document records civilian casualties in the early years, from 2009 these almost disappear. Even well-documented cases of civilian deaths are omitted. These include at least two incidents where the tribal administration is known to have admitted to the families that it knew civilians had died.

Among the civilian deaths that go unmentioned is one of the most high-profile attacks of the past 18 months — an October 2012 attack that killed Mamana Bibi, an elderly woman, as she was in a field. Her grandchildren were nearby, and several were injured by debris.

‘If a case as well-documented as Mamana Bibi’s isn’t recorded as a civilian death, that raises questions about whether any state records of these strikes can be seen as reliable, beyond the most basic information,’ said Mustafa Qadri, a researcher for Amnesty International, who investigated the strike for a major report published last autumn. ‘It also raises questions of complicity on the part of the Pakistan state — has there been a decision to stop recording civilians deaths?’

Up to the end of 2008, the document reports where attacks have killed civilians. In this period the document lists 37 drone strikes, as well as four attacks carried out by NATO and Afghan forces — and it notes civilian deaths in 15 of the drone attacks. The document records 353 deaths in this time, of whom at least 138 are specifically described as civilians.

The document records a further 294 incidents between January 1 2009 and September 2013, when the version obtained by the Bureau ends. Only seven of these specifically mention civilian victims. Just two use the word ‘civilian’ — the others typically refer to women and children as being among the dead. A further entry states that a child was injured.

The Bureau’s data records a similar number of incidents over the same time period, but shows 53 incidents where at least one civilian death is reported by multiple credible sources — and many more where civilian deaths are possible. In total, the document records around 200 civilian deaths, including those where ambiguous language such as ‘local tribesmen’ is used — compared to a minimum of over 400 recorded by the Bureau.

Civilian casualties according to the document. In 2011, the file notes that 41 ‘local tribesmen’ were killed — these are included in the civilian count here.

A former senior FATA Secretariat official, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that rather than attempting to establish which of the dead were believed to be civilians, agents instead categorised the dead as ‘local’ or ‘non-local’.

‘It is very difficult to report it whether this man was really a militant or a non-militant. So they found an easy way of saying it: local and non-local,’ he said.

A second local source agreed: ‘As a matter of policy, deaths in drone strikes were classified as locals and non-locals, because [the term] civilians was found to be too vague and contradictory.’ This helped to ‘avoid controversy’, he added.

The ‘non-local’ category strongly suggests that an individual is an alleged militant, the former official added. ‘Local means that they belong to that agency [tribal administered district] and you could say in general terms that they are innocent… But it is quite possible that some of them might be terrorists.’

The change in recording follows an escalation in the number of strikes in the final months of Bush’s presidency, which gathered pace under Obama. With the increased frequency of the strikes, gathering information may have become more challenging for

Political Agents
Some non-combatant deaths may be missing, too, because reports are filed soon after they occur and are not later updated: several entries contain no casualty estimates at all and simply note: ‘Details are awaited.’

The former FATA official suggested that the document may have stopped regularly recording civilian casualties because of something as prosaic as a change of the personnel charged with compiling it. But other observers suggested that the cause could be less mundane.

The last drone strike in the document to use the word ‘civilian’ in describing the dead is the first of Obama’s presidency, on January 23 2009 (a strike six months later says, more ambiguously, ‘A civilian pickup was targeted’).

Amnesty’s Qadri said: ‘You cannot rule out a deliberate attempt not to include information on possible civilians or non-combatants being killed. It seems a huge coincidence that there’s this change in reporting just as Obama enters power. But whatever the explanation and despite the lingering uncertainty, we know these figures are not presenting the full picture of the US drone program.’

Chris Woods, who started the Bureau’s investigation into drone strikes and who is now writing a book on armed drones, said: ‘One of my sources, a former Pakistani minister, has indicated that local officials may have come under pressure to play down drone civilian deaths following the election of Barack Obama. It’s certainly of concern that almost all mention of non-combatant casualties simply disappears from this document after 2009, despite significant evidence to the contrary.’

‘It Is Feared that All the
Killed Were Local Tribesmen’

A handful of entries include ambiguous language hinting at non-combatant casualties. On August 14 2010, the document records an evening strike, noting: ‘The dead included 07 Mehsuds, 05 locals and 01 unknown’. Mehsud is the name of a prominent local tribe. A field investigation by Associated Press later found that seven civilians — including a child — were among 14 to die in an attack on a house during Ramadan prayers.

And when a drone attacked a meeting of tribal elders on March 17 2011 — an attack that was condemned by the Pakistani military and civilian government — the report says ‘it is feared that all the killed were local tribesmen’.

Bureau field investigations have repeatedly encountered civilian deaths in strikes where local media have used ambiguous phrases such as ‘villagers’, ‘people’ and ‘local tribesmen’.

One entry in the file hints at problematic definitions of who is considered a ‘militant’. For a strike on April 12 2010, it records 14 deaths and three injuries, noting: ‘The killed militants also include a 12 years [sic] old child.’

‘Whatever is happening, if this document is anything to go by, it’s clear the Pakistan government’s investigations are not adequate,’ said Amnesty’s Qadri. ‘First, this table does not appear to be telling us the whole truth about casualties.

‘Secondly, what steps have Pakistan authorities taken to assist civilians caught up in these strikes like access to medical services or provide them with remedies such as access to justice or compensation? … It doesn’t seem to be the case that this record keeping is carried out so that the Pakistan state can better assist people caught up in these strikes.’

The document also barely mentions other details such as which organisation the dead are believed to have belonged to, or the names of those killed. Even when very senior militants are killed, they are almost never identified by name.

As the Bureau has found with its Naming the Dead investigation, the vast majority of those killed in drone strikes remain unidentified — only around one in five has so far been identified by name. Documents obtained by news agency McClatchy and NBC showing the CIA’s records of its drone strikes indicated that in most strikes these do not record the names of the dead either.

These documents have not been published. And as the Pakistan document shows, even to the local government it is often a mystery who is dying in the CIA’s drone strikes.

Missing Civilians
The document obtained by the Bureau omits several incidents where multiple credible sources report civilian casualties — even when local officials have acknowledged.

For example, on October 24 2012, a drone strike in North Waziristan hit a figure in a field. The report notes that one person died, adding: ‘At about 1440 hours, US Drone fired two missiles at agriculture land situated in between the two houses in village Ghundi Killi Daur Tappi area Tehsil Miranshah, N. W. Agency.’

But it neglects to mention what over a dozen other sources reported: the figure was a 67-year-old grandmother, Bibi Mamana, who was in the fields with her grandchildren. Three of her grandchildren were also injured — yet the document records no injuries at all.

Yet Pakistani official sources have acknowledged that civilians were harmed in the strike. The Political Agent gave the family $100 to get medical treatment, an Amnesty field investigation found. And in the attack’s immediate aftermath, military officials told reporters that a woman had been killed — although they said two others were also killed.

In October 2012, Mamana’s family — including children who were injured in the strike — visited the US, where they met members of Congress.

Yet the document makes no mention of a civilian death, or of any injuries.

Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve, the legal charity that took the family of Bibi Mamana, the grandmother killed in a drone strike, to the US, said: ‘It’s past time CIA drone strikes in Pakistan were brought out of the shadows and into the light.

Nine-year-old Nabila ur Rehman told Congress just a few months ago about how she watched a US drone kill her grandmother and injure her siblings. Nabila deserves answers. Unfortunately, this document doesn’t give them to her.’

Similarly, immediately after a strike on December 26 2009, Pakistani intelligence sources told Al Jazeera that everyone killed was a civilian — a reported six civilians. But the document notes only: ‘No foreigners were killed’.

And as the Bureau reported last July, for a strike on January 23 2009 — the second of Obama’s presidency — the local Political Agent sent a letter acknowledging the deaths of four civilians. But there is no hint of them in the secret file.

Pakistani Government’s Secret Report on Drone Strikes
Alice K Ross / The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

(January 29, 2014) — The Bureau has obtained a secret Pakistani document showing the assessment by local officials of over 330 CIA drone strikes dating back as far as 2006.

Officials in the FATA Secretariat, which oversees the tribal areas, compile the document using information obtained from local sources by field agents. Each day the local Political Agent, the ranking officer in the field, submits a Daily Situation Report to the FATA Secretariat, listing any violent incidents in the area that day. The document published here is compiled from those reports.

The Bureau previously obtained and published a section of the same document showing strikes from 2006 to late 2009. The new version includes strikes dating up to the end of September 2013.

Although in some respects the document is detailed — showing the exact times and locations of strikes, for example — it also has striking omissions: none of 2007′s five strikes are shown, and the report almost never notes the names or alleged militant affiliations of the dead. Most strikingly, almost all civilian casualties after the start of 2009 are missing, even in incidents where the Pakistani government has acknowledged civilian deaths.

After consulting with journalists and field researchers who have extensive experience of reporting on Pakistan’s tribal areas, the Bureau has redacted the names of homeowners where they have not been previously identified by other reports, to protect their identity. This is particularly important for more recent incidents but we have decided to redact older names as well for consistency.

See the documents here.

Bureau Podcast Interviews Drone Strike Eyewitness
Bureau Reporter / The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

(January 9, 2014) — ‘I saw a big balloon of dust. Then I heard a bang.’ In the latest edition of the Bureau’s drones podcast a man from Pakistan’s tribal region describes witnessing a drone strike in 2009 that he believes killed a senior al Qaeda commander.

The man, whose identity the Bureau is not revealing for safety reasons, explains in detail to Owen Bennett-Jones how he saw a car and its passengers attacked by CIA drones one winter’s day in South Waziristan, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

After the first missile hit, the car stopped and three men got out. ‘I could see they couldn’t walk properly — it looked like they were injured,’ the eyewitness said. Moments later, a second missile struck the men. The local man later learned that one of those he had seen attacked was a feared commander known locally as Asmaraykhan.

In the podcast Alice K Ross, who leads the Bureau’s drones team, explains how she compared key details from the eyewitness’s account to the Bureau’s database of drone strikes in Pakistan, and some of the research problems this posed. The Bureau believes that this strike matches key details of the penultimate strike of George Bush’s presidency, which took place on January 1, 2009.

Ross and Bennett-Jones also discuss the Pentagon’s plans for the future of unmanned systems and other recent drones news.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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