Archive for category Terrorism

‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi ‘Correction’ Leaves Key Questions Unanswered

Lara Logan

h/t HuffPo

“60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan issued a terse 90-second “correction” Sunday night, semi-apologizing for her discredited October 27 report featuring a false “eyewitness” account of the Benghazi terrorist attack. Dylan Davies, a security officer employed by the State Department, lied to “60 Minutes” and in a book published by Threshold Editions, a right-wing branch of CBS subsidiary Simon and Schuster.

That’s not enough. Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” spent a week claiming that the fake Benghazi report was accurate – the result of a year’s worth of research, he asserted. Yet it only took a few days for The Washington Post to find proof that Davies wasn’t credible.

First of all, why do a story on the anniversary of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack? There was nothing new to report, although CBS might have wanted to cater to right-wing conspiracy theorists and political figures.

Logan’s “60 Minutes” report perpetuated the right-wing myth that there are “lingering questions” about the U.S. reaction to the Benghazi attack that haven’t been addressed. This was a lie, and her “correction” last night did not set the record straight.

In both her original report and last night’s “correction,” Logan failed to explain the tie-in between “60 Minutes” and Threshold Editions, which released Davies’ book two days after he appeared on the show.

Logan failed to address why “60 Minutes” accepted Davies’ account of the Benghazi attack, after Fox News Channel rejected it. That might have been a red flag, don’t you think?

Will “60 Minutes” launch an independent investigation? Logan didn’t say last night if there will be an independent panel to investigate what went wrong, like the 2004 investigation that ended Dan Rather’s career with CBS News.

Will Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, keep their jobs or face any punishment over this mistake? We don’t know.

More info:
Here’s CBS’ Full Apology For Its Bungled Benghazi Bombshell

UPDATE: Let CBS know what you think of Lara Logan and the lies she put on the air.

UPDATE: CBS News Keeping ’60 Minutes’ Review Internal

UPDATE: Dylan Davies, ’60 Minutes’ Benghazi Witness, Resurfaces, Says He’s In Hiding

UPDATE: Media Matters: The Benghazi Hoax Chapter 16: 60 Minutes

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Will I Be Next? Amnesty International Investigates Pakistan Drone Strikes

Will I Be Next?

I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?
–Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of US drone strike victim Mamana Bibi

“WILL I BE NEXT?” US DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN

On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.

Earlier, on 6 July 2012, 18 male laborers, including at least one boy, were killed in a series of US drone strikes in the remote village of Zowi Sidgi. Missiles first struck a tent in which some men had gathered for an evening meal after a hard day’s work, and then struck those who came to help the injured from the first strike. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as US drones continued to hover overhead. The use of pilotless aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for surveillance and so-called targeted killings by the USA has fast become one of the most controversial human rights issues in the world. In no place is this more apparent than in Pakistan.

Amnesty International has documented nine U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from last year and this year. Their report, available online in PDF format, includes a discussion of so-called “signature strikes,” follow-up missile attacks launched against people rescuing the wounded from a drone strike, and other tactics. Must-read.

According to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns, “When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict.”

h/t Kevin Gosztola on FDL

UPDATE: Obama Administration Has Launched Drone Strikes Against AQAP Suspects Who Could’ve Been Captured

UPDATE: Translator at drone strike hearing moved nearly to tears by survivor testimony

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The US Needs to Start Unraveling the Homeland Security Mess

A good place to start is repealing the disaster that is the Patriot Act.

However, a proposal before Congress right now would limit the scope of the NSA’s information gathering.

The amendment [pdf] basically defunds the NSA’s dragnet collection of every bit of metadata on all phone records as well as other bulk records that have not yet been revealed. The amendment still would allow the NSA to collect information under the original intent—and understanding—of the law, that is information actually related to actual investigations.

Of course NSA supporters are pushing back, including, unfortunately, the Obama administration.  Like too many people in positions of power, the administration and the President seem to in the grip of fear about terrorism and have convinced themselves that any means necessary to keep us “safe” (what that means) are acceptable.  They are mistaken.  Such an attitude only feeds a creeping tendency toward authoritarianism in our culture, one which seems to be growing stronger because too few people in elected office see it as a threat.  We see it in the militarization of police forces, in spying on Americans, in the absurd theatre that is the TSA striptease in airports.  It is fueled by fear and it fuels fear.  I believe it is dangerous.

 

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Palling Around With…

McCain and friends

While engaged in making his own mavericky foreign policy over in Syria, Senator John McCain met with some Syrian rebels allied with al-Qaeda– including Mohammad Nour, an infamous terrorist who has been involved in the abduction of a group of Lebanese pilgrims. Nour is the man in the center of the photo above.

Does anyone else remember what Senator McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin said during the 2008 presidential election? She accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” I think the irony meter has been pegged.

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Can the US Stop Being a Blundering Giant?

Perhaps the most painful part of the wildly ill-conceived response to 9/11 was the way in which the US behaved like a blundering giant, lashing out at the world, smashing things like Iraq that had nothing to do with the attacks.  The Bush administration’s policies – arrest, torture, secret prisons, drone attacks, two failed wars – were seductive and disastrous and arose from a worldview formed by the Cold  War that saw the world in stark, dualistic ways.

The Obama administration had been stymied by Congress in its efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  They’ve managed to unwind our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and this week the President delivered the kind of speech that reminded me why I liked him in the first place – morally, ethically he seems to understand the issues, to speak them eloquently.  Too rarely, he’s matched his rhetoric and his action.  But at long last, it seems he wants to move our nation in the right direction, giving up the seductiveness of the imperial presidency and its vast powers.

In an article for the AP, from KSL, for example:

Some call it wishful thinking, but President Barack Obama has all but declared an end to the global war on terror.

Obama is not claiming final victory over extremists who still seek to kill Americans and other Westerners. Instead, he is refocusing the long struggle against terrorism that lies ahead, steering the United States away from what he calls an equally frightening threat – a country in a state of perpetual war. In doing so, Obama recasts the image of the terrorists themselves, from enemy warriors to cowardly thugs and resets the relationship between the U.S. and Islam.

The point is that the tools needed to successfully combat terrorists aren’t armies and drones.

Maureen Dowd, channeling her inner smart person, wrote about the President’s speech.

After four years of bending the Constitution, the constitutional law professor now in the White House is trying to unloose the Gordian knot of W.’s martial and moral overreaches after 9/11.

Safely re-elected, President Obama at long last spoke bluntly about the Faustian deals struck by his predecessor, some of them cravenly continued by his own administration.

The rest of her article describes her visit to Bush’s presidential library, with more than few choice phrases:

You could fill an entire other library with what’s not in W.’s.

And:

Decision Points Theater — a whiny “Well, you try being the Decider” enterprise — lets you make the decisions after getting taped briefings on W.’s crises from actors playing experts. But it is rigged with so many false binary options that the visitors I voted with ended up agreeing with Bush’s patently wrong calls on Iraq and Katrina.

I’m reminded that throughout his Presidency, Barack Obama has been a maddeningly cautious and centrist leader.  The result has been a slow, but steady, progression in the right direction.  No whiplash policy changes for this president, instead a constantly calibrating and recalibrating movement away from the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.

The War On Terror was always a misnamed, mishandled, misconceived thing, a disaster from beginning to end.  It was a fatally misconceived adventure that did more damage than good.  If at long last the Obama administration is turning away from it, rejecting its tactic and premises, I’ll suffice to say better late than never.

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Did President Obama Just Apologize for the Drone Campaign?

Predator drone

Via Spencer Ackerman and HuffPo.

Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.

The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.

In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”

Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.

President Obama says he’s sorry.

Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.

“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Alex Jones: Oklahoma Tornado Was An Inside Job

Alex Jones

Via Media Matters.

Conspiracy talk show host Alex Jones is best known for promoting the theory that the 9/11 attacks were really a “false flag” operation by the U.S. government. He said the same thing about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the recent Boston bombings. Now he is making the claim that the Oklahoma tornado was a secret government plot.

Jones, a longtime proponent of the idea that the U.S. government can manipulate and even produce weather systems like tornadoes and hurricanes, went on to say that if people saw helicopters or small aircraft in the area, then “you better bet your bottom dollar they did this.”

“But, who knows if they did?” he asked. “You know, that’s the thing. We don’t know.”

Jones is being increasingly treated as a serious voice within the right-wing GOP. Republicans in the House, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), actually held a hearing last month to discuss Jones’ theory that that President Obama is trying to buy up all the bullets in the country.

UPDATE: Maddow: Will ‘weather weapon’ talk finally drive GOP away from Alex Jones? In an audio clip, Jones suggests the government is causing tornadoes to convince Americans about climate change:

“Tornadoes are way down. Of course, they lie that they’re way up to get carbon taxes, but I don’t know if this was a weather weapon or not. They can, with the right weather conditions, they can create and steer groups of tornadoes.”

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CNN’s Crowley Adopts False Right-Wing Claim That Obama Didn’t Call Benghazi A Terrorist Attack

Via Media Matters.

What a shame. It was Candy Crowley who courageously committed an act of journalism in the middle of a presidential debate, daring to fact-check inveterate liar Willard (“Mitt”) Romney in real time. I suppose her standing at CNN has suffered, because truth-telling just isn’t appreciated among the DC media. On CNN right-wing talking points are better than facts, so Crowley is going with the talking points.

The hyper-partisan right-wing Benghazi witch-hunt has produced no new information after NINE congressional hearings, two full-scale investigations, and an SNL parody. Senator John McCain tried to get a select committee established just to re-hash Benghazi. If I were the Senate Majority Leader I would instead assemble a committee to thoroughly investigate the Bush administration’s record on terrorism, starting with the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letters, and charged with examining the 31 other terrorist attacks on Bush’s watch, including 7 attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates.

More info:
Fox And Issa Claim There’s A Difference Between An “Act Of Terror” And A Terrorist Attack

34 Comments

Ten Years Ago Today . . . And No It Was Not Worth It

I hate looking back.  Ten years ago today the US invastion of Iraq began. 

The push for war with Iraq felt like a time of public madness.  The American media has never been less absolutely incompetent than in those months.  Yeah, the media pretty much sucks now, but back then they were awful beyond the telling of it.  The largest peace rallies in history got no coverage.  American media has spent the last decade hoping no one reminds them how bad they were, how gullible, how insanely biased for the Bush administration they were and how they mindlessly lapped up any lie they were told. Read the rest of this entry »

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An Exercise in Truth-Telling

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Tonight’s must-see TV is on MSNBC at 7 pm: “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War” uses the occasion of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq for an unusual exercise in media truth-telling, hosted by Rachel Maddow. The documentary is based on a book co-authored by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

In the documentary, many of those who were sources for the book “Hubris” appear on camera for the first time. One of them, Mark Rossini, was then an FBI counter-terrorism agent detailed to the CIA. He was assigned the task of evaluating a Czech intelligence report that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the attack on the World Trade Towers. Cheney repeatedly invoked the report as evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April,” Cheney said on Meet the Press on Dec. 9, 2001. But the evidence used to support the claim–a supposed photograph of Atta in Prague the day of the alleged meeting—had already been debunked by Rossini. He analyzed the photo and immediately saw it was bogus: the picture of the Czech “Atta” looked nothing like the real terrorist. It was a conclusion he relayed up the chain, assuming he had put the matter to rest. Then he heard Cheney endorsing the discredited report on national television. “I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini says.

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Does The President Have the Power to Execute Americans Without Any Charges or Due Process?

Somebody has leaked a 16-page “white paper” (PDF) to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff. Prepared by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, it tries to justify President Obama’s claim that he has the power to target even Americans for assassination without due process. This is not the primary Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo justifying Obama’s kill list – that is still classified – but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

Glenn Greenwald:

This new memo is entitled: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”. It claims its conclusion is “reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen”. Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

According to the “white paper,” if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such – with indefinite imprisonment or death. The paper states that presidential assassinations are justified when “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US.”

What is “an imminent threat”? The paper expressly states that it is inventing “a broader concept of imminence” than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president’s assassination power “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack… will take place in the immediate future.”

Basically, the Obama administration has asserted the power to kill anyone (including American citizens) anywhere, for any reason (or no reason – how do we know, because the decision is secret?), anytime they want to. And they are claiming that this is constitutional and legal.

I’m encouraged that not all Americans are buying this outrageous claim. A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found 48 percent of Americans think it is illegal to “target US citizens living in other countries with drones,” while 24 percent think it is legal. But the same poll found majority approval for the use of drone attacks against “people and other targets deemed to be a threat to the US” whether carried out by the CIA or the military, as long as those targets are not American citizens.

Ever since George W. Bush took power as a “unitary executive,” it seems that federal law, our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been all been subject to repeal via secret OLC memos. Illegal government actions became routine, mostly carried out in secret but sometimes we find out about them. The Obama administration hasn’t done much if anything to restore the rule of law, and they have instituted an unprecedented crackdown on whistle-blowers.

The trend is toward more illegality and less transparency.

44 Comments

Who Is Going To Federal Prison For The CIA’s Torture Program?

Last August, the Department of Justice ended a four-year criminal investigation by federal prosecutor John Durham into interrogation techniques used during the presidency of George W. Bush, including torture. At least two cases resulted in the deaths of detainees in CIA custody. This investigation began in 2008, after we learned about the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogations of terror suspects. Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to initiate any prosecutions.

Late last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled German citizen Khaled el-Masri was tortured by CIA agents. He was seized in Macedonia in December 2003, tortured, and secretly flown to Afghanistan. Then he was released in April 2004. after the CIA admitted he was wrongly detained. El Masri’s lawsuit in U.S. court for illegal detention was dismissed in 2006 when the court accepted the government’s position that it could invoke the so-called “state secrets privilege” in order to avoid having to admit what the CIA did.

The US Senate’s select committee on intelligence conducted a three-year review of CIA treatment of detainees, producing a 6,000-page classified report that is believed to conclude that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” adopted by the CIA during the Bush years did not produce any major breakthroughs in intelligence, contrary to previous claims. This report is likely to remain secret. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the intelligence committee chair, says the report contains “startling details” about waterboarding, stress positions, forced nudity, beatings and sleep and sensory deprivation.

Torture and conspiracy to commit torture is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary, or by the death penalty if it results in the victim’s death. So who is going to prison now that the CIA torture program has been thoroughly investigated?

1. Someone who conducted “enhanced interrogation” torture sessions.
2. Someone who destroyed evidence of torture.
3. Someone who wrote a legal memo justifying the use of torture.
4. Someone high up in the Bush administration who authorized torture.
5. Someone who opposed torture within the CIA and later blew the whistle on the terrible crimes committed in our name.

If you guessed #5, you’re correct.

Last Friday, ex-CIA officer John C. Kiriakou became the first person to be sentenced to prison for issues related to CIA torture. Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for revealing the name of a former operative involved the Bush era’s brutal interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo to a reporter.

Kiriakou worked as a CIA operative for more than two decades and led a March 2002 raid that captured high-ranking Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. He was also a vocal torture opponent who revealed his knowledge of U.S. enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in an ABC interview in 2007.

UPDATE: From Roots Action: Free John Kiriakou

On June 18, 2009, President Obama declared that no one in the CIA would be prosecuted for torture. But now a CIA officer is finally going to prison in connection with torture. However, this CIA officer didn’t torture anyone — he blew the whistle on torture.

In 2007, John Kiriakou was the first person to publicly acknowledge that the CIA was waterboarding people. The retribution for that act of whistleblowing began immediately.

The CIA began filing crime reports with the Department of Justice against Kiriakou. The IRS audited him in 2007 and has done so every year since. His wife was forced out of her job at the CIA. In 2010 an FBI agent pretending to be a foreign spy tried to entrap Kiriakou, who reported the incidents to the FBI. The same FBI follows him everywhere, including into his children’s school.

The DOJ tried unsuccessfully to prosecute Kiriakou under the Espionage Act as a supposed enemy of the state. He became unemployable and racked up a million dollars in lawyers’ bills.

Now Kiriakou is finally going to prison for 30 months for the act of telling an author the name of someone to interview, even though the name was already known and Kiriakou’s prosecution has made it better known.

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