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Obama, NSA Spying and the Dangers of Secretive, Authoritarian Government

Recent reports indicating that President Obama was aware of and personally approved an NSA program that involved spying on the personal communications of various international leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have once again highlighted the deception and intransigence of the Obama administration in dealing with the revelations that the National Security Agency has been acting outside the bounds of the law, sucking up electronic communications the world over.

While this may come as a shock to most Americans, I’ve been writing about the NSA’s illegal surveillance tactics since the 1980s, which features prominently in my new book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. However, this latest development in the spying saga—that the NSA has been aiming its surveillance activities at the citizens of allied countries, including France and Germany—has thrown a kink into the Obama administration’s attempts at maintaining a cozy relationship with its foreign allies.
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Israel and the NSA: Partners in Crime

Usa Israel

It wasn’t the US government breaking into the private communications of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to top secret documents unearthed by Edward Snowden and published in Le Monde – it was the Israelis.

A four-page internal précis regarding a visit to Washington by two top French intelligence officials denies the NSA or any US intelligence agency was behind the May 2012 attempted break-in – which sought to implant a monitoring device inside the Elysee Palace’s communications system – but instead fingers the Israelis, albeit indirectly:

The visit by Barnard Barbier, head of the DGSE’s technical division, and Patrick Pailloux, a top official with France’s National Information Systems Security, was intended to elicit an explanation for the break-in, which the French media blamed on the Americans. The NSA’s inquiries to the British, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and other US allies all turned up negative. However, one such close ally wasn’t asked.
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Rep. Rogers To The French: You’re Welcome

Mike Rogers

Europeans are upset after learning that, in addition to capturing the email and phone records of Americans, the NSA has been doing the same to them in a global assault on privacy. This includes leaders of allied nations. The United States is now viewed as an international rogue nation with no respect for the law or privacy or even loyalty. Now into this explosive environment has jumped Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers responded directly to the French and said that this is all a “good thing” and the French really “applauding and popping champagne corks” for keeping them all under surveillance and destroying any notion of privacy.

Rogers truly personifies the new mentality of the surveillance state created under President Obama. While George Bush sought to expand sought surveillance, it was Obama who succeeded in getting Democrats and other politicians to embrace the new security state and a transparent society model. What is most striking is how members, particularly those supposed to be exercising oversight of these agencies, have become virtual spokespersons for the security state.
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A Welcome US/Saudi ‘Reset’

Last week it was reported that Saudi Arabia decided to make a “major shift” away from its 80 years of close cooperation with the United States. The Saudi leadership is angry that the Obama administration did not attack Syria last month, and that it has not delivered heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government. Saudi Arabia is heavily invested in the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria, sending money and weapons to the rebels.

However, it was the recent diplomatic opening between the United States and Iran that most infuriated the Saudis. Saudi Arabia is strongly opposed to the Iranian government and has vigorously lobbied the US Congress to maintain sanctions and other pressure on Iran. Like Israel, the Saudis are fearful of any US diplomacy with Iran.
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Al-Qaeda’s Corridor Through Syria

Syria Rebels

On Tuesday night, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi checkpoints along Highway 11, which runs from Baghdad to Syria via Ramadi. They bombed the checkpoint at Rutba as well as points just west of Ramadi. Thirty-seven people were killed in these attacks, a majority of them security officers. Highway 11 is Iraq’s southern route into Syria. The other road from Baghdad to Syria is Highway 12, which runs from Ramadi northwards to the towns of Anan and Rawah, along the Euphrates River and into the Syrian city of Raqqa. Last week, gunmen of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) attacked the towns of Anan and Rawah, destroying a bridge and trying to destroy the electricity transmission towers. The Iraqi army was able to deter the ISIS attack on Rawah, and so held off ISIS’s attempt to take the towns that would give it effective control of Highway 12. Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq said that last week’s attack was a “hopeless attempt by al Qaeda [ISIS] to establish a foothold in Iraq.” It seems likely that ISIS decided to try and take Highway 11 after its attack on Highway 12 was repulsed.
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Stasi Meets Steve Jobs


“Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail” sniffed US Secretary of State Henry Stimson in 1929 when told that American cryptographers had broken Japan’s naval and diplomatic codes.

Stimson, who later headed the War Department, ordered code-breaking shut down.

Alas, there are not any old-school gentlemen left in Washington these days. Revelations of US electronic spying by whistleblower Edward Snowden have ignited a furor across Latin America and now Europe.
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Crying Wolf Over Iran

Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to convince the audience in both the United States and Europe that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a "wolf in sheep’s clothing" intent on beguiling the west with empty promises while proceeding full speed with a nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately for Netanyahu, few are interested in hearing an argument that has been repeated over and over again for more than twenty years in one form or another regarding the imminence of a "Mullah nuke." If there is a true predatory beast tale intrinsic to the oft repeated narrative, it perhaps should be the story of the boy who cried wolf.

All of which is not to suggest that Netanyahu’s friends in the United States have given up. Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk have welcomed the overture from Iran by calling for tightened sanctions to send the signal that Washington is really serious about using a stick before offering any carrots, a hardening of the same old punishment cycle that would hardly be an inducement for concessions by Tehran. They also demand that Iran give up any ability to enrich uranium, guaranteeing that negotiations will go nowhere. A number of Democratic Senators who are close to the Israel Lobby are also on board in opposing any easing of sanctions.
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Beirut Bombings at 30: Interventionism Kills

Beirut Memorial

Today, October 23, 2013, marks the 30th anniversary of the US Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Some 241 American servicemembers were killed. These deaths were the direct result of US intervention in an area where there was neither US interest nor any threat to the United States.

Although after the bombing President Ronald Reagan initially pledged to stay the course in Lebanon, within months, facing waning support and a realization that his was a futile policy, he decided to withdraw the US military.

The US troops were sent in after the June, 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which was supported by the US government at the time. Resentment ran high at the US (and French) military presence, increasing with the gradual involvement of US forces on one side of the conflict. Following the grisly September 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacres, carried out by the Israel-allied Phalangists facilitated by the Israeli Defense Forces, the temporarily withdrawn US forces were sent back in to Lebanon where they became magnets for increasing resentment and therefore targets for attack. It was recklessness.
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As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap

Bernanke Troops

The year 2014 could be shaping up as the year that the chickens come home to roost.

Americans, even well-informed ones, don’t know all of the mistakes made by neoconized and corrupted Washington in the past two decades. However, enough is known to see that the US has lost economic and political power, and that the loss is irreversible.

The economic cost of this lost will be born by what remains of the middle class and the increasingly poverty-stricken lower class. The one percent will have offshore gold holdings and large sums of money in foreign currencies and other foreign assets to see them through.
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