Tagged: Barack Obama

Brutal torture by CIA as stupid as ever


Another almost-invisible supporter of human rights in the CIA

The CIA’s post-9/11 embrace of torture was brutal and ineffective – and the agency repeatedly lied about its usefulness, a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee…concludes.

After examining 20 case studies, the report found that torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information,” said committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, in a statement summarizing the findings. She called the torture program “a stain on our values and on our history”…

The torture that the CIA carried out was even more extreme than what it portrayed to congressional overseers and the George W Bush administration, the committee found. It went beyond techniques already made public through a decade of leaks and lawsuits…

Contractor psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen played a critical role in establishing the torture program in 2002. A company they formed to contract their services to the CIA was worth more than $180m, and by the time of the contract’s 2009 cancellation, they had received $81m in payouts.

So much for “do no harm!”

The committee’s findings, which the CIA largely rejects, are the result of a four-year, $40m investigation that plunged relations between the spy agency and the Senate committee charged with overseeing it to a historic low.

The investigation that led to the report, and the question of how much of the document would be released and when, has pitted chairwoman Feinstein and her committee allies against the CIA and its White House backers. For 10 months, with the blessing of President Barack Obama, the agency has fought to conceal vast amounts of the report from the public, with an entreaty to Feinstein from secretary of state John Kerry occurring as recently as Friday.

CIA director John Brennan, an Obama confidante, conceded in a Tuesday statement that the program “had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes” owing from what he described as unpreparedness for a massive interrogation and detentions program…

Obama banned CIA torture upon taking office, but the continuing lack of legal consequences for agency torturers has led human rights campaigners to view the Senate report as their last hope for official recognition and accountability for torture.

Though the committee released hundreds of pages of declassified excerpts from the report on Tuesday, the majority of the 6,000-plus page classified version remains secret, disappointing human rights groups that have long pushed for broader transparency…

Republican members of the intelligence committee questioned the report in their own 100-page document. They wrote blah, blah, blah and blah.

Read the whole report summary over here.

James Clapper, director of (sic) national intelligence, is leading the ranks of apologists with what is becoming the party line of liberals who are patting themselves on the back because the report finally came out. “Only the heroic United States with our great history, blah, blah, blah, would do this, blah, blah, blah.”

It took over a decade of effort by hundreds of individuals dedicated to preserving our Constitution and what few standards remain in American politics to force our government to come out with this report. Our politicians spend more time hiding the corruption of standards of decency than, say, any criminal prosecutor in St, Louis county or New York City.

Trying to elicit praise for admitting we broke everything from international treaties to our own federal laws by torturing detainees is something thugs like Dick Cheney may demand from his creepy followers. Criminal practices are not praiseworthy even when finally admitting you committed the crimes.

Oliver Stone film about Edward Snowden vs NSA starts production January

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play Edward Snowden in a movie directed by Oliver Stone about the former National Security Agency contractor who blew the whistle on the US government’s mass surveillance programs, the film’s backers said on Monday.

Stone, who won best director Oscars for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, has written the screenplay based on two books – The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.

The still untitled film goes into production in Munich in January, said independent studio Open Road Films and production and financing company Endgame Entertainment.

Producer Moritz Borman said in a statement that he and Stone chose Open Road and Endgame because “this film needs an independent in the true sense, where political pressures will not come into play…”

Snowden leaked tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents to the media in 2013 and sparked a firestorm over the NSA’s gathering of data from the Internet activities and phones of millions of ordinary Americans and dozens of world leaders.

He is wanted by the United States on charges including theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person…and believing in the US Constitution.

Thanks, Mike

Cartoon of the Day


Click to enlarge

Anyone out there gullible enough to believe any number of Republicans in Congress – majority or minority – would evaluate and vote for Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder? You know what the phony arguments will be. Lies.

She’s been through the vetting process before Congress twice before and passed handily. But, opposition to racism isn’t a virtue among what passes for conservatives, nowadays.

Obama and Xi pledge cooperation on greenhouse gas emissions

China and the US have unveiled new pledges on greenhouse gas emissions, as the leaders of the two countries met for talks in Beijing.

US President Barack Obama said the move was “historic”, as he set a new goal of reducing US levels between 26%-28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

China did not set a specific target, but said emissions would peak by 2030.

China has cut carbon intensity for nine years in a row.

The two countries also agreed to reduce the possibility of military accidents in the air and sea…

In case you didn’t notice, only one of those two countries is stacking up military forces in air and on the sea – next to the other.

The two countries together produce about 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide…

President Obama’s offer is based on cuts in carbon emissions from coal power (a policy the Republicans threaten to reverse).

China’s offer to peak emissions is a long-awaited decision. Its emissions trajectory is now similar to Europe and the USA, just further behind because it still has so many people in poverty.

Scientists will fear this agreement is not yet strong enough. But it does show leadership – and it sends a powerful signal to financiers that investing in dirty fuels for the future is becoming a risk.

Except, not for the next two years at least. The Party of NO is now in a position to try to turn back what little has been done.

In September, China told a United Nations summit on climate change that it would soon set a peak for carbon emissions and that it would make its economy more carbon efficient by 2020.

China had previously aimed to reduce its carbon intensity, which meant reducing the amount of emissions per dollar of economic output. This meant that with its rapidly growing economy, its emissions could still rise.

Wednesday’s pledge is the first time it has agreed to set a ceiling, albeit an undefined one, on overall emissions.

China can speak for themselves and their actions speak much louder than editorial content in the NY TIMES. As an American citizen, I’m concerned with what my nation does – or in the case of any political topic requiring commitment at least 6th grade science, what my nation does not do.

Americans aren’t educated. Our politicians reject education and science – aside from lip service. As the recent mid-terms proved, our nation not only does not vote in their own self-interest, they don’t vote.

I think my cynicism is justified.

Who is missing from this picture?


Sec of Health, Sylvia Burwell; President Obama; CDC Director, Dr. Thomas FriedenREUTERS/Larry Downing

Who is missing? There ain’t any Surgeon General. That’s the person who would coordinate the federal contribution to confronting the Ebola threat to public health. Congressional Republicans have stopped the appointment of any one to that office for over a year.

That’s been the main in-house tactic of the Party of NO ever since the people of the United States elected a non-white president. And re-elected a non-white president. The normal procedures of staffing our federal courts with judges, appointing ambassadors, you name it – have been halted because a crap-cluster of old white Republicans decided they can’t abide a government headed by someone who doesn’t fit the good old boy network.

Congress authorized Vietnam War under bullshit pretense – 50 years ago, today


President Johnson signs “Gulf of Tonkin” resolutionCecil Stoughton/White House Photograph Office

After just nine hours of deliberation, both houses of Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution today in 1964. The bill authorizing the United States to officially go to war with Vietnam was signed by President Lyndon Johnson three days later. Of course, the United States had been increasingly involved in Vietnam at least since 1955, when then-President Eisenhower deployed the Military Assistance Advisory group to help train the South Vietnamese Army…

The supposed August 4th attack on the USS Maddox was used to legitimize the growing U.S. presence in Vietnam and to give the President authority to use the military in the effort to combat Communist North Vietnam. Even Johnson questioned the legitimacy of the Gulf of Tonkin. A year after the incident, Johnson said to then Press Secretary Bill Moyers, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

A good, traditional liberal Democrat administration following the unified party line of American foreign policy. Hasn’t changed a jot since.

Pacific island nation sues nuclear-weapons nations


Click to enlarge this view of the US blowing a hole in the Marshall Islands


The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands is taking on the United States and the world’s eight other nuclear-armed nations with an unprecedented lawsuit demanding that they meet their obligations toward disarmament and accusing them of “flagrant violations” of international law.

The island group that was used for dozens of U.S. nuclear tests after World War II filed suit Thursday against each of the nine countries in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. It also filed a federal lawsuit against the United States in San Francisco, naming President Barack Obama, the departments and secretaries of defense and energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Marshall Islands claims the nine countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead of negotiating disarmament, and it estimates that they will spend $1 trillion on those arsenals over the next decade…

The countries targeted also include Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The last four are not parties to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but the lawsuits argue they are bound by its provisions under “customary international law.” The nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, requires negotiations among countries in good faith on disarmament.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on the lawsuit…

The Marshall Islands were the site of 67 nuclear tests by the United States over a 12-year period, with lasting health and environmental impacts.

“Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities,” the country’s foreign minister, Tony de Brum, said in a statement announcing the lawsuits.

The country is seeking action, not compensation. It wants the courts to require that the nine nuclear-armed states meet their obligations…

The Marshall Islands is asking the countries to accept the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in this case and explain their positions on the issue.

The court has seen cases on nuclear weapons before. In the 1970s, Australia and New Zealand took France to the court in an effort to stop its atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific.

I doubt if our so-called Liberal president will find room in his heart to defend the rights and needs of these island folk. After all, they’re not sitting on uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea important to Japan’s quest for oil.

Why DOJ prosecutors have done nothing about subprime crime


My broker’s phone number is in the top righthand drawer of the desk

One of the great “mysteries” of the post-financial-crisis era is why there has been almost no prosecution of obvious criminality, particularly in the mortgage business. We have been told it is more complex than it appears; that the securitization process has made determining exactly who was harmed complicated; that this complexity makes convincing a jury a crapshoot.

All of these arguments fail to withstand even cursory scrutiny when it comes to foreclosure fraud. The robo-signing, document fabrication and mass perjury should have been fish in a barrel for even a newbie prosecutor. Why did the government fail to go after so many perpetrators of mass fraud?

A Justice Department inspector general’s report released this week raises that exact question. It found that: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements” and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation “ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest ranked criminal threat in its lowest crime category…”

This all took place during an era of limited legal enforcement for white-collar crimes. Prosecutions for financial felonies began falling under the George W. Bush administration, and kept right on doing so during the Barack Obama administration. At least we can’t blame this governmental incompetency on partisanship…

So why were there so few prosecutions? I have three theories:

1) Endowment Effect & Sunk Cost Fallacies: The TARP, ZIRP and FASB rule changes were not especially popular.

2) Economic Threat:…“The greatest triumph of the banking industry wasn’t ATMs or even depositing a check via the camera of your mobile phone. It was convincing Treasury and Justice Department officials that prosecuting bankers for their crimes would destabilize the global economy.”

3) The wrong players in key roles: When Obama began his administration, he appointed experienced people to key economic roles. Unfortunately, their resumes included helping to create the financial crisis.

RTFA for all the gory details. Barry Ritholtz has the wonderful habit of trying to tell the truth as he sees it, as he finds it. That doesn’t inhibit his willingness to identify corruption no matter how widespread, inclusive of “nice” people.