Posted: February 11, 2014 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bill Clinton, Cryptome.org, Diane Blair, drones, Edward Snowden, First Look, Glenn Greenwald, Hillary Clinton, Jeremy Scahill, metadata, Monica Lewinsky, NSA, Pierre Omidyar, Shirley Temple, signals intelligence, terrorists, The Hillary Papers, The Intercept |
The top news story on Google this morning was the death of 1930s child star Shirley Temple at age 85. Later in life, she served the U.S. as an ambassador and was active in Republican politics.
Shirley Temple Black, who lifted America’s spirits as a bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star during the Great Depression and later became a U.S. diplomat, died late on Monday evening at the age of 85, her family said in a statement.
Temple Black, who lured millions to the movies in the 1930s, “peacefully passed away” at her Woodside, Calif., home from natural causes at 10:57 p.m. local time (0157 ET), surrounded by her family and caregivers, the statement said on Tuesday….
As actress Shirley Temple, she was precocious, bouncy and adorable with a head of curly hair, tap-dancing through songs like “On The Good Ship Lollipop.” As Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, she was soft-spoken and earnest in postings in Czechoslovakia and Ghana, out to disprove concerns that her previous career made her a diplomatic lightweight.
“I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a diplomat here,” Black said after her appointment as U.S. ambassador to Ghana in 1974. “My only problems have been with Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had grown up since my movies.”
BBC News on Temple’s storied career as a child star:
Born in 1928, Temple soon became a major star after getting her first film role at the age of three.
Her singing, dancing and acting won over fans worldwide. She was given a special juvenile Oscar in 1935, when she was just six years old. To this day, she is still the youngest person to receive an Academy Award.
With the nickname “America’s little darling”, she was ranked as Hollywood’s biggest draw for four years running from 1935 to ’38 in an annual poll of US cinema owners.
Her rendition of the song On the Good Ship Lollipop in the film Bright Eyes was among her most famous performances.
Her other films included Curly Top, The Littlest Rebel, Baby Take a Bow and Little Miss Marker.
She was such a hit that US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt dubbed her “Little Miss Miracle” for raising morale during the Great Depression and she was credited with helping save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy.
Temple starred in a total of 43 feature films – but found it difficult to sustain her career in adulthood and left acting behind in 1950.
Bloomberg Businessweek on Temple-Black’s later life:
Temple’s box-office appeal waned as she grew into adulthood, and she made her last movie in 1949. Her second marriage, to businessman Charles Black, lasted almost 55 years until his death in 2005. They raised two children, plus a daughter from Temple’s brief first marriage.
As Shirley Temple Black, the onetime star became active in Republican Party politics in the 1960s and served in diplomatic posts under four presidents.
“I had an enchanted childhood, a magic childhood, with great memories,” Black told reporters in 1978, when she turned 50. “But I don’t want to live in the past and I don’t live in the past.”
In other news, attacks on Hillary Clinton are ramping up, and so far they are truly bizarre. Republicans are still obsessed with Bill Clinton’s sexual fling with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Why that is supposed to be relevant to Hillary Clinton’s political career, I will never understand. The latest nastiness is about the so-called “Hillary Papers,” which I knew nothing about until this morning. It turns out these papers aren’t Hillary’s, but those of some friend of the Clinton’s named Diane Blair. I’ve never heard of her.
The LA Times explains:
The papers — a collection of Blair’s diary-like accounts of conversations, campaign memos and the like — are a sometimes wrenching trip via the wayback machine, as she recounts the Clintons’ arduous transition from Arkansas to Washington. In the most quotable comment, Hillary Clinton is said to have called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon” whose relationship with Bill Clinton resulted from a moral lapse on his part, albeit one driven by the pressures facing the couple in the capital.
The papers also reflect, time after time, Hillary Clinton’s frustration with politics and her view that, while she adopted her husband’s name to stave off criticism in Arkansas, she was not about to change her personality to suit the Washington establishment, the press or, for that matter, voters.
“I gave up my name, got contact lenses, but I’m not going to try to be somebody that I’m not,” Blair quotes Clinton as saying.
That tension has been a recurring theme of the Clintons’ political lives. In the 1992 presidential contest, campaign aides placed much emphasis on humanizing Hillary, or at least forwarding a public version of the human being her friends, including Blair, testified to. Blair’s papers included a confidential campaign memo that said voters believed Hillary Clinton was smart but just couldn’t fully connect with her. (Among other things, as was reported during the campaign, many voters were unaware that the Clintons had a daughter, the then-teenage Chelsea, and thus didn’t see Hillary as particularly motherly.)
She got little credit for the things people liked about the Clintons, and more of the blame for the things they disliked.
“What voters find slick in Bill Clinton, they find ruthless in Hillary,” the memo said.
Diane Blair with Bill and Chelsea Clinton
I still don’t see how this is relevant to Hillary’s political career. Calling Lewinsky “a narcissistic looney-tune?” Why is that a problem? Oh, and she’s “ruthless,” although there’s no evidence for that is offered. Here’s the article in the right wing Washington Free Beacon that started the latest attacks, The Hillary Papers: Archive of ‘closest friend’ paints portrait of ruthless First Lady. It’s long, and frankly only skimmed it. If this garbage is what Republicans are going to focus on in opposing Hillary, I don’t think it’s going to work. Check out more heavy breathing over the “Hillary papers” at CNN and Politico.
The endless NSA leaks story continues onward. According to the latest tally by Cryptome.org, at the current rate, it will take 42 more years for all of the Snowden documents to be released. So far Greenwald and crew have reported on only about 1.8% of the documents Snowden is believed to have stolen.
Yesterday Glenn Greenwald and the gang debuted their new website, “The Intercept,” backed by a $50 million dollar investment by Ebay and Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. For now the site will be entirely focused on the Snowden leaks as well as leaks from other sources who come forward and offer information on methods U.S. uses to gather intelligence. Judging by the first article posted by Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras, which focuses on the NSA’s role in Obama’s drone program, the articles will be aimed at using melodramatic language to inflict maximum damage to the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies, while providing little information that hasn’t been already reported elsewhere.
I assume the substance of the drone article was written by Scahill, who wrote a book, Dirty Wars, that included a great deal of information on the drone program. But you can see Greenwald’s hand in the slanted way in which the story is presented. For example, the first paragraph:
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
No evidence is offered to show that human intelligence isn’t used or that drone strikes are “unreliable” or that they kill more civilians than bombs or missiles, and no documents from the Snowden cache are included. Interestingly, the authors do not specifically argue against killing suspected terrorists; they only claim that drones are not the best method. They also present the opinions of two sources who worked in the drone program without any evidence to show that their statements are accurate.
A few more reactions…
Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast: Welcome to Glenn Greenwald, Inc.? Grove wonders if Greenwald is the best “public face” for a serious news site.
Investigative reporter and columnist Glenn Greenwald was barely five minutes into his appearance Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources—an interview promoting the long-awaited online launch of First Look Media, eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s ambitious digital journalism startup—before he called the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee a liar.
“He’s not only lying—and he is lying—but he knows that he’s lying,” Greenwald said about Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who suggested last week that journalists who’ve disseminated classified documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden might be guilty of “fencing stolen material.”
“This is what Mike Rogers is notorious for in Washington,” Greenwald went on, “just making things up and smearing political opponents and journalists he doesn’t like.”
The retort was a familiar-sounding one for the 46-year-old Greenwald, a former trial lawyer who tends to treat policy disagreements as blood feuds and is never reluctant to question motives and fling rather personal insults.
Here’s a pointed critique from Ohtarzie, a writer who has long argued that Greenwald and Poitras are hoarding the Snowden documents, dribbling them out slowly in an effort to get maximum attention and income while providing little new information.
If there is anything new here, it’s in the large extent to which the NSA is said to rely on cell phones for identifying and tracking targets for the CIA, which allegedly leads to increases in wrongly identified targets and civilian deaths. This differs somewhat from Gellman’s account, which described a more varied, conceivably more precise approach, using an “arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions.” Despite the differences, if there is something revelatory in the Intercept’s story from a technical standpoint, I’m missing it. Tracking by cell phone has been discussed before, includingby Snowden. In light of signature strikes, the apparent recklessness of these methods also seems unsurprising.
Gellman’s story was rightly criticized for being effectively a dick-waving exercise for the U.S. Intelligence apparatus, since it detailed simply how a Bad Guy was killed by the Good Guys with all their sexy technology and savvy. In keeping with their adversarial brand, Scahill and Greenwald mix the NatSec dickwaving with some handwringing over civilians, most of which is provided via quotes from former drone operator and ostensible whistleblower, Brandon Bryant. This passage gives a taste of the overall dickwavey/handwringy mix.
The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.
Near the end of the lengthy piece, Bryant even wrings his hands over the assassination program as a whole, at least as it results in the extrajudicial executions of American citizens like Anwar Al Awlaki. But overwhelmingly, both his emphasis and the emphasis of the piece are simply on the need to kill more precisely, by making greater use of informants and agents on the ground to supplement the NSA’s signal intelligence.
Ryan Goodman asks why Greenwald and Scahill repeatedly describe the use of metadata to target terrorists with drone strikes, but they provide few examples of actual metadata being used in the program. Where’s the “Metadata”?: What Greenwald and Scahill (Don’t) Say about NSA Metadata Collection and Lethal Targeting. Read all about it at the link.
Finally, the second scoop at The Intercept yesterday was a series of what they call “exclusive” photographs of the “surveillance state,” but a number of writers noted that these same photos can be found on the NSA website and by Googling. Here’s Bob Cesca:
Glenn Greenwald’s new website, The Intercept, launched today and….the first news article at the Pierre Omidyar-funded site, titled “New Photos of the NSA and Other Top Intelligence Agencies Revealed for First Time,” was utterly bizarre.
It was literally nothing more than three aerial photographs of the National Security Agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland; the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, Virginia; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Springfield, Virginia.
That’s all. It’s treated like a major scoop and appeared as the first big revelation on the site, prior to a separate article by Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill.
I’m out of space, so I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. What stories are you focusing on today?
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Posted: April 23, 2013 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Gitmo, morning reads, Psychopaths in charge, Real Life Horror, torture, U.S. Politics | Tags: Abdulrahman al Awlaki, Anwar Al-Awlaki, black shirts, Dirty Wars, force-feeding, Guantanamo, Ibn Shaikh al-Libi, Jason Leopold, Jeffrey Kaye, Jeremy Scahill, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, Shaker Aamer, terrorism vs everyday violence |
Yemeni protestors dressed in prison uniforms, hold posters of men detained in Guantanamo Bay prison during a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy demanding their release, in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
There has been so much news lately that it’s hard to know what to write about; but I decided to focus on a shocking story that hasn’t gotten much coverage in the corporate media–the mass hunger strikes at Guantanamo.
Last week The New York Times published a heart-rending cry for help from an inmate (dictated over the phone), Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel: Gitmo Is Killing Me. This man has been in Gitmo for 11 years with no charges and faces the terrible possibility that he will die there. How did he end up imprisoned by the U.S.?
When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.
I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.
He has been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10, and Americans are now force-feeding him. That is torture.
Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.
There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
This is being done in our name. Our tax money is being spent on this.
Protesters demand Obama close Guantanamo Bay prison
On Saturday, The Guardian Observer published another inmate’s story, “Shaker Aamer: ‘I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow'”
As of today, I’ve spent more than 11 years in Guantánamo Bay. To be precise, it’s been 4,084 long days and nights. I’ve never been charged with any crime. I’ve never been allowed to see the evidence that the US once pretended they had against me. It’s all secret, even the statements they tortured out of me.
In 2007, roughly halfway through my ordeal, I was cleared for release by the Bush administration. In 2009, under Obama, all six of the US frontline intelligence agencies combined to clear me again. But I’m still here.
Every day in Guantánamo is torture – as was the time they held me before that, in Bagram and Kandahar air force bases, in Afghanistan. It’s not really the individual acts of abuse (the strappado – that’s the process refined by the Spanish Inquisition where they hang you from your wrists so your shoulders begin to dislocate, the sleep deprivation, and the kicks and punches); it’s the combined experience. My favourite book here (I’ve read it over and over) has been Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell: torture is for torture, and the system is for the system.
More than a decade of my life has been stolen from me, for no good reason. I resent that; of course I do. I have missed the birth of my youngest son, and some of the most wonderful years with all my four children. I love being a father, and I always worked to do it as best I can.
Shaker Aamer is a Saudi Arabian citizen and his family lives in London.
Jeffrey Kaye (AKA Valtin), who has been writing about U.S. torture for many years wrote a diary about Shaker Amer at DailyKos on Sunday that is well worth reading: British Press: US Conspires with UK & Saudis to Hold Detainee w/Evidence on Iraq War Lies.
Unlike the vast majority of detainees held at Guantanamo, Aamer speaks very good English. He is intelligent and motivated. That makes him dangerous to the authorities running Guantanamo. While President Obama’s administration and DoD officials maintain Guantanamo is run humanely, a blue-ribbon panel assembled by The Constitution Project, including former GOP officials, have determined that abuse still occurs, and have pointed out the the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M, a prime culprit in ongoing abuse, should be excised from that document and from DoD practice. (Link to the long and fascinating report.)
But it apparently is not only testimony about being tortured or seeing others tortured that Aamer can supply. That alone would probably not be enough to hold him forever. Instead, exposes this past weekend in the British press have indicated Aamer is being held indefinitely, or considered for “repatriation” to Saudi Arabia, because he can testify to the presence of British counter-terrorism agents from MI5 and MI6 at his own torture… and the torture of Ibn Shaikh al-Libi.
Al-Libi famously was tortured to give false evidence about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of chemical weapons as part of the doctored evidence presented to US and world public opinion to justify the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the US-dominated coalition in 2003. The invasion was responsible for the deaths of an untold number of Iraqis (estimates ranging from 100,000 to well over a million), an untold number of injured, produced millions of refugees, and generally destabilized the region.
In a recent Guardian expose, the culpability of high US officials in the organization and operation of death and torture squads by the Iraqis was documented. But in the United States, there appeared to be almost no interest in these developments.
President Obama supposedly ended Bush’s torture policies and vowed to close Guantanamo, but clearly these men are being tortured and there are no signs that Guantanamo will ever be closed. Here’s a piece by Jeremy Scahill published in 2009 that describes the “black shirts,” the “Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama.” Clearly, it is still happening in 2013.
One more link to a piece at Truthout by Jason Leopold, who has also been writing about torture for years: Inmates Rising: Worsening Gitmo Mass Hunger Strike in Prisoners’ Own Words.
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