Friday, January 14, 2011

Secrecy Is The Problem, Not Leakers : Tonight We Are All Tunisians

Secrecy Is The Problem, Not Leakers : Tonight We Are All Tunisians

( TUNISIA A GOOD EXAMPLE OF HOW WIKILEAKS MATTERS most for autocracies, not democracies,
Prime Minister Claims Power in Tunisia as President Flees ... -

Tunisia Riots Blamed On Cables Which Revealed Country's Corruption ... -

Tonight We Are All Tunisians

by Yvonne Ridley : January 15, 2011

 Over the last few days we have seen some of the bravest people facing down some of the worst.

Armed with nothing more than a revolutionary heart and hopes of a better future they gathered and protested as government forces aimed their weapons and fired live rounds in to the crowds.

But the ammunition and the underlying threats of arrest and torture meant absolutely nothing to the masses – for they had simply lost their fear.

It was the final testament to the brutality of a dictator who has had the support of European leaders and various presidents of the United States.

And that the Tunisian President Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali fled from his country like a rat up a drainpipe after 23 brutal years spoke volumes about the character of the man himself.

If he had one ounce of the courage his own people displayed, he too would have stayed but most of these tyrants are gutless with the moral fiber of a dung beetle.

The demise of Ben Ali came when police prevented an unemployed 26-year-old graduate from selling fruit without a license. Mohammad Bouazizi turned himself in to a human torch on December 17 and died of the horrific burns in Sidi Bouzid, in central Tunisia.

It was the final straw, a defining moment which ignited rallies, marches and demonstrations across Tunisia.

And revelations from Wikileaks cables exposing the corrupt and extravagant lifestyle of Ben Ali and his grasping wife fanned the flames of unbridled anger from a people who were also in the grip of poverty.

I knew it was coming. I saw the burning desire for freedom in the eyes of the courageous people of Ghafsa when the Viva Palestina Convoy entered the country in February 2009 on its way to Gaza.

Our convoy witnessed the menacing secret police intimidate the crowds to stop them from gathering to cheer us on.

This vast army of spies, thugs and enforcers even tried to stop us from praying in a local mosque.

That they stood their ground to cheer us on prompted me to leave my vehicle and hug all the women who had turned out. We exchanged cards and small gifts and then, to my horror, I discovered 24 hours later that every woman I had embraced in the streets of Gafsa had been taken away and questioned.
Human rights organizations have constantly condemned and exposed the brutality of the Ben Ali regime but that has not led America and European leaders to intervene or put pressure on the regime to stop the brutality.

Sadly, it serves western interests to have a people brutalized and subjugated.
Now Tunisia is minus one dictator but it is still in a state of emergency. The next few days and weeks are going to be crucial for the Tunisian people who deserve freedom and liberty. My God, they’ve paid for it with their own blood and we must always remember their martyrs.

None of the politicians, secret police or other odious government forces will emerge from this period with any honor and quite a few are already cowering in the shadows.

But perhaps the biggest show of cowardice in this whole sorry episode has come from The White House.

Not one word of condemnation, not one word of criticism, not one word urging restraint came from Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton as live ammunition was fired into crowds of unarmed men, women and children in recent weeks.

And news of the corrupt, mafia-like regime would not have come as a surprise to either of them. We know this thanks to the Wikileaks cables written by US Ambassador Robert Godec who revealed in one memo: “Corruption in the inner circle is growing.”

But, as the injustices and atrocities continued there was not one squeak from the most powerful nation on earth … until America’s dear friend, Ben Ali had scuttled from the country.

The reality is the US Administration likes dealing with tyrants and even encourages despotic behavior

Egypt is one of the biggest testaments to this with its prisons full of political opposition leaders. Hosni Mubarak is Uncle Sam’s enforcer and biggest recipient of aid next to the Zionist State.

Pakistan’s treatment of its own people is little better. Remember when US Ambassador Anne Patterson in Islamabad wrote in one Wikileaks cable about the human rights abuses carried out by the Pakistan military? Patterson then went on to advise Washington to avoid comment on these incidents.

But now the US has made a comment on the situation in Tunisia … but only when Ben Ali was 30,000 feet in the air did White House spokesman Mike Hammer issue a statement which read: “We condemn the ongoing violence against civilians in Tunisia, and call on the Tunisian authorities to fulfill the important commitments … including respect for basic human rights and a process of much-needed political reform.”

Unbelievable. Too little, too late, Mr President. Actually that statement could have been uttered any time during the last US presidencies since Ronald Reagan.

But as I say, America couldn’t give a stuff about the human rights of the people of the Maghreb, Pakistan, Egypt and Palestine to name but a few.
When US condemnation finally came through the tyrant had fled leaving behind more than 60 civilian martyrs and countless more injured.

Tomorrow I will go to the Tunisian Embassy in London as I have done previously and stand shoulder to shoulder with my Tunisian brothers and sisters and their supporters. We will remember the dead, we will pay tribute to the brave and courageous many who are still in the process of seizing back their country and we will pray that no tyrant will sleep easy in his bed from this moment on.

Nearly fifty days have passed since the WikiLeaks document release in late November, this one centering on US diplomatic cables and quickly dubbed "Cablegate." At this writing, not even 3,000 cables from the cache, which reportedly holds more than 251,000 documents, have been published by WikiLeaks or, in most cases, by its newspaper partners, and it's impossible to know whether everything of prime importance has already emerged in the cherry-picking.

Julian Assange's next court date in his sex-crime extradition case is not until February 7, and a major WikiLeaks release—rumored to focus on Bank of America—seems to have been pushed back, partly because of WikiLeaks' financial problems. So it's an appropriate time to assess what we have learned so far—about Assange and alleged leaker Bradley Manning (heroes? villains?), the media's love-hate relationship with WikiLeaks and limits on civil liberties for journalists and whistleblowers.

Then there are the various threats and retreats inspired by the latest leak: the likely US prosecution of Assange, along with calls by some pundits and politicians for his execution or assassination; leading corporations such as PayPal and Amazon cutting off services for WikiLeaks;  Rep. Peter King's call this week for a ban on American companies dealing with WIkiLeaks; and our Justice Department's secret subpoenas for Twitter (and likely other social networks) seeking information on some WikiLeaks supporters.

How all these issues and others are viewed by the public hinges significantly, however,  on the perceived value of the leaked cables. US officials, even in charging foul, usually focus on the embarrassing loss of control and secrecy, not the damaging content of the cables. And as with earlier WikiLeaks bombshells—the massive Iraq and Afghanistan "war logs"—many critics in the media soon labeled the Cablegate revelations minor, old hat. Some of WikiLeaks' media partners, after a dozen days of heavy-duty reporting, severely reduced coverage of the cables. Now most of them are emerging via El País and the Norwegian dailyAftenposten.

For balance, then, it's important to review a small sample of what we have learned thanks to WikiLeaks since April and the release of the "Collateral Murder" US helicopter video, which showed the killing of two Reuters journalists, among others. It's necessary to do this because most in the US media, after brief coverage, provided little follow-up. Consider the scope of even this very limited list of revelations:

§The Saudis, our allies, are among the leading funders of international terrorism. 
§The scale of corruption in Afghanistan tops even the worst estimates. President Hamid Karzai regularly releases major drug dealers who have political connections. His half-brother is a major drug operator. 
§The Pentagon basically lied to the public in downplaying sectarian violence in Iraq. Our military handed over many detainees they knew would be tortured to the Iraqis. US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of torture and abuse by Iraqi police and military. 
§After the release of the Iraq logs, new tallies put the number of documented civilian casualties there at more than 100,000. The Afghanistan logs similarly showed many more civilians killed there than previously known, along with once-secret US assassination missions against insurgents. 
§The British government assured Washington that our interests would be protected in its "independent" public inquiry into the Iraq War. 
§The Pakistani government has allowed its intelligence unit to hold strategy sessions with the Taliban. Despite longstanding denials, the United States has indeed been conducting special ops inside Pakistan and taking part in joint operations with the Pakistanis. 
§The Yemenis have lied to their own people, taking credit for air attacks on militants in that country—but it was the United States that did the job. The Yemeni president gave us an "open door" to combat terrorism. Washington has secretly shipped arms to the Saudis for use in Yemen. 
§The Saudis, contrary to their public statements, want us to bomb Iran. So do some other countries in the region—or so they say in private. 
§Our State Department asked our diplomats at the United Nations to spy on others, including the secretary general, even aiming to retrieve credit card numbers. 
§At last we got to read in full the historic 1990 memo from US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War. 
§The Obama administration worked with Republicans to protect Bush officials who faced a criminal investigation in Spain for alleged torture. 
§Pope Benedict XVI impeded an investigation into alleged child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in Ireland. 
§Bribery and corruption mark the Boeing versus Airbus battle for plane sales. "United States diplomats were acting like marketing agents, offering deals to heads of state and airline executives whose decisions could be influenced by price, performance and, as with all finicky customers with plenty to spend, perks," the New York Times reported early this month. 
§Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. 
§US diplomats have been searching for countries that will take Guantánamo detainees, often bargaining with them; the receiving country might get a one-on-one meeting with Obama or some other perk. 
§Among several startling revelations about control of nuclear supplies: highly enriched uranium has been waiting in Pakistan for more than three years for removal by an American team. 
§  The U.S. embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops. 
§The British have trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force that human rights organizations consider a "government death squad." 

The revelations go on and on; for an even longer list, and divided region-by-region, see Joshua Norman's report at CBS News. As the many key issues surrounding WikiLeaks are debated in the weeks ahead, we must recognize what we would have missed without the 2010 "document dumps."

And there's another crucial aspect. "The reaction that the WikiLeaks episode most deserves has been the least evident," observes former British diplomat Carne Ross, who now runs the advisory group Independent Diplomat. "The picture of the world revealed in the cables demands a sober and informed reflection on the realities of policy-making.... The reactions to WikiLeaks share one abiding characteristic, so obvious that it can easily be overlooked, namely, an unwillingness to address with any sophistication or seriousness the complex and ever-changing world that the United States—and all of us—must now deal with. The prevailing and lazy assumption is implied but all too clear: that the foreign policy elite, and government, should be left to get on with the job, with whatever secrecy that they demand."

Greg Mitchell writes a daily WikiLeaks News & Views blog at The Nation. He can be reached

Do We Have Ahmadinejad All Wrong?

Is it possible that Iran's blustering president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, long thought to be a leading force behind some of Iran's most hard-line and repressive policies, is actually a reformer whose attempts to liberalize, secularize, and even "Persianize" Iran have been repeatedly stymied by the country's more conservative factions? That is the surprising impression one gets reading the latest WikiLeaks revelations, which portray Ahmadinejad as open to making concessions on Iran's nuclear program and far more accommodating to Iranians' demands for greater freedoms than anyone would have thought. Two episodes in particular deserve special scrutiny not only for what they reveal about Ahmadinejad but for the light they shed on the question of who really calls the shots in Iran….

…It might seem shocking to both casual and dedicated Iran-watcher that the bombastic Ahmadinejad could, behind Tehran's closed doors, be playing the reformer. After all, this was the man who, in 2005, generated wide outrage in the West for suggesting that Israel should be "wiped from the map." But even that case said as much about our limited understanding of him and his context as it did about Ahmadinejad himself. The expression "wipe from the map" means "destroy" in English but not in Farsi. In Farsi, it means not that Israel should be eliminated but that the existing political borders should literally be wiped from a literal map and replaced with those of historic Palestine. That's still not something likely to win him cheers in U.S. policy circles, but the distinction, which has been largely lost from the West's understanding of the Iranian president, is important.

As always, both Ahmadinejad the man and the Iranian government he ostensibly leads resist easy characterization. The truth is that the opaque nature of Iran's government and the country's deeply fractured political system make it difficult to draw any clear or simple conclusions. It's not obvious whether Ahmadinejad is driven by a legitimate desire for reform or just tactical political interests. But if you oppose the Mullahs' rule, yearn for greater social and political freedoms for the Iranian people, and envision an Iran that draws inspiration from the glories of its Persian past, then, believe it or not, you have more in common with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than you might have thought…

America's Enduring Strength

by Sarah Palin on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 6:52am
Please click here to view the video of this statement. 

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy. 

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day. 

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional. 

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

- Sarah Palin

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.
Ironic to be talking about pistols when she’s the one who was using gun sight imagery to politically target her opponents, eh? Her argument suggests that the outrageous rhetoric she and other nutcase teabaggers have been using against Obama and the Democrats should be immune from criticism because it has no particular impact. So why did she wipe the gun sights from her website then?
Sarah Palin could be the better person right now and just say ‘sorry’. Instead she, as I expected, is hiding behind the First Amendment. Sheer cowardice.
Is This the End of Sarah Palin As We Know Her?
Has Palin finally tarnished her luster with her thoughtless remarks about the Giffords shooting, or will she turn this into yet another opportunity to play the victim?READ MORE
Sarah Seltzer / AlterNet

Obama & Palin: A Tale of Two Speeches

Michael Shear in the New York Times compares the two speeches yesterday:
“No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy,” Ms. Palin said, looking directly into the camera.
But the purpose of Ms. Palin’s video was clearly to send a different, more sharp-edged message. Just 1 minute and 32 seconds into her talk, Ms. Palin shifted gears, saying she had become puzzled and saddened by the accusations leveled against her and others by “journalists and pundits.”
Disciplined and sophisticatedly produced, the video ended with Ms. Palin’s resolve. “We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate,” she said. “We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy.”
That message, in truth, was not so different from the one that Mr. Obama delivered 15 hours later in front of more than 14,000 people at the McKale Memorial Center.
“They believed, and I believe, we can be better,” the president said, referring to the victims of Saturday’s shooting. And, like Ms. Palin, he rejected as far too simplistic the idea that political speech, however harsh, was directly responsible for the tragedy.
“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation, in a way that would make them proud,” he said.
But what could not have been more different was the tone. Where Ms. Palin was direct and forceful, Mr. Obama was soft and restrained. Where Ms. Palin was accusatory, Mr. Obama appeared to go out of his way to avoid pointing fingers or assigning blame. Where she stressed the importance of fighting for our different beliefs, he emphasized our need for unity, referring to the “American family — 300 million strong.”
In a way, that's unfair. The president has to try to speak for the whole country in a speech like that while Palin is speaking only for her allegedly "victimized" minority, (and truthfully only for herself.) One can imagine a speech in which the president might have said something more forceful, but I'm not sure it could have been this one. The facts don't back up a direct condemnation of wild right wing rhetoric as the proximal cause of this particular tragedy and the president cannot engage in the kind of nuanced discussion the rest of us are having in a speech to the nation. Palin, of course, doesn't have that responsibility, and while I'd hardly call her speech "nuanced" it was part of that conversation, not a speech like the one the president had to give last night.
Having said that, I think this is an interesting way to look at the state of American politics. You have an angry subset of Republicans who feel unfairly maligned by a society that's changing in ways they don't fully buy into. It's a strain in American political life that's always been around and perhaps it's because of the nature of America itself --- it's been a dynamic culture from the beginning with lots of immigrants and second chances and social mobility. And there have been sweeping social changes in the past few decades, more changes than a lot of people are able to cope with. This group is fairly represented by Palin, with her "sharp" and "forceful" call to fight for their beliefs and dissent from the consensus. She didn't make any friends among the elites of both parties yesterday, but I stand by my belief that she solidified herself in the leadership of the aggrieved Americans who cannot accept the legitimacy of their political opposition.
Obama, on the other hand, is by nature a mediator and a conciliator which is why he is effective as a president calling for national healing (and less successful at every day hand to hand political combat.) He's the embodiment of all the social changes that freak out the right and always presented himself as one who can transcend them. But they don't want the differences to be "transcended", they want them to disappear. On the other side, a whole lot of other people are desperate to see him to succeed at that and have placed their hopes in his skills to work it through. They embrace the change -- and hate the controversy.
In the long term the country will either adjust and go on as it has or turn into something that's not worth thinking about. The question we have to ask ourselves is, in this time of economic upheaval and insecurity for most Americans, how is this going to play out in the short term? I honestly don't know. I'm not sure anyone can "transcend" the politics of these times (and frankly, I'm not sure I want them to be transcended either. There are principles at stake.)
But whatever happens, I doubt this debate will ever truly end. This tension, which becomes more and less acute depending on the times, is a defining feature of our country. For better or worse, those two speeches were equally representative of America.
Arizona Is Drowning in a Sea of Extremism
Since my first visit seven years ago, I have watched as Arizona has gone off the brink. READ MORE
Max Blumenthal / AlterNet

The Class War Launched by America's Wealthiest Is Getting More Savage
Countries with wide income inequality are unstable: they have large underclasses, high rates of crime and little opportunity. READ MORE
Larry Beinhart / AlterNet

Justice Department Losing Terrorism Prosecutor

National Security Division chief Kris set to return to private sector


The Justice Department prosecutor who led government efforts to prevent a number of serious security threats to the nation, including the attempted bombing of Times Square, the al Qaeda plot to bomb the New York subway system and the attempted detonation of a bomb aboard an airliner on Christmas Day 2009, announced his resignation Thursday.

David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, will leave his post in March. Considered a national security expert, particularly relating to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he joined thedepartment in March 2009 after being confirmed 97-0 by the U.S. Senate. He previously worked at the Justice Department during both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

"David Kris led the National Security Division with great distinction through a period when the department confronted a number of threats to the nation's security, and there is no doubt that his tireless work helped keep the American people safe," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. "I will miss his leadership."

Under Mr. Kris' leadership, the Justice Department's National Security Division played a pivotal role in a number of high-profile cases, which included the arrest and prosecution of Mumbai plotter David Headley, who made several trips to Pakistan for terrorism training and was actively involved in the scouting of targets for the Mumbai attacks on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistani ex-military officers, which killed 166 people in November 2008.

The division was also involved in the deportation in July of 10 Russian agents in exchange for the release of four convicted Western spies held in Russia in their biggest spy swap since the Cold War

Mr. Kris, 44, was also involved in the prosecution of a number of significant espionage cases, including Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, who were caught and prosecuted after decades of spying for the government of Cuba.

The division also continued and expanded its enforcement in the areas of export control and counterproliferation. As the Obama administration's top anti-terrorism official, he is credited with strengthening the National Security Division's partnerships with the intelligence community and other national security elements, including the Defense Department and the National Security Council.

Mr. Kris oversaw the criminal investigations of:
• Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square and was sentenced in October to life in prison.
• An unsuccessful plan to detonate homemade bombs in the New York subway system that was orchestrated by senior al Qaeda leaders.
• The arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who sought to blow up a commercial airliner with explosives sewn into his underwear, but which failed to detonate.

"I am grateful for my two years of service as assistant attorney general for national security," Mr. Kris said. "I started my legal career at the Department of Justice, and it has been a tremendous privilege to work with the department's leadership and the dedicated professionals in the National Security Division."

No successor has yet been named.

Mr.Kris has appeared before Congress numerous times as an advocate for the government's positions regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the USA PATRIOT Act. As a former associate deputy attorney general in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, he was critical of the legal rationalizations for President Bush's domestic terrorist-surveillance program, which authorized warrantless domestic surveillance and wiretapping.

His resignation is effective March 4. He will become general counsel at Intellectual Ventures, a technology firm based in Bellevue, Wash. He previously served as senior vice president and deputy general counsel at Time Warner, taught at Georgetown University and was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

TSA chief seeks less 'invasive' methods

Transportation Safety Administration chief John Pistole said Thursday the agency is looking at new technology such as body scanners that show passengers as "stick figures" and security methods used in Israeli airports in a drive to make air travel security "as minimally invasive as possible."
In a speech before the American Bar Association in Washington, Mr. Pistole said the federal government would make a decision "sometime this year" on whether to adopt the newer scanner technology, now used in Amsterdam.
Concerns over TSA's "enhanced" security measures and passenger privacy issues boiled over during the Thanksgiving travel season, with news reports of traveler complaints about scanners capturing images of their naked bodies, intimate physical "pat-downs" and having to reveal embarrassing medical conditions.

At the time, Mr. Pistole initially said the agency had no plans to change its security procedures. But after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others weighed in on possible changes, Mr. Pistole said his agency would seek ways to make air travel security less invasive.

KUHNER: Obama's Tucson degradation

President Obama is cynically exploiting the tragic shooting in Tucson for political gain. His memorial address Wednesday night was a surreal spectacle in narcissistic self-congratulation. It dishonored the victims, those who were murdered and maimed by Jared Lee Loughner, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat.

Global Nazi Investigations Rise For A Second Year

Ongoing Nazi war criminal investigations
United States

WikiLeaks is now at the centre of a global battle between media and those in power but what's new about what Julian Assange is doing? WikiLeaks is much more than just another journalistic scandal, it is a challenge to the way that power and news media operate in the Internet Age.

In some ways WikiLeaks is a traditional investigative news operation. It gets its information from a source and the journalists decide what they will publish. It needs a platform, an audience and revenue just like any other newsroom. It can also be sued, censored or attacked. But because it is trying to operate online outside of normal national jurisdictions it is harder to hold to account. It can use mirror sites and multiple servers to avoid physical restraint.

It also disseminates data on such a vast scale and directly to the public so it is posting a different threat to those in authority used to being able to influence if not control the media. It is independent and not run for profit and the people who work for it are ideologically motivated. This all makes it much harder to clamp down.

Oxford University Internet analyst John Naughton says that what WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. It is not that what it publishes will endanger lives or make government impossible. It is that it forces power out into the open. That is why those in power are attacking it. WikiLeaks worries them because it protects its sources and gives the evidence directly and in great detail and scale to the citizen.

It is also a challenge to mainstream media. As Columbia University digital journalism expert Emily Bell argues, it forces journalists and news organisations to demonstrate to what extent they are now part of an establishment it is their duty to report. In other words, WikiLeaks exposes the degree to which normal journalism has lost its watchdog role.

Mainstream journalism stands accused of failing to be critical enough of those in authority. Over the economic crash of 2007 and over intelligence and the Iraq war, it failed to challenge the conventional wisdom. It was not a conspiracy or a failure of resource. It was because journalism can be too responsible, balanced and passive. Sometimes journalism needs to be disruptive, critical and even partial.

No-one denies that what WikiLeaks has revealed about the Iraq war or the diplomatic cables is true. It is important because it has revealed specific abuses such as the collateral damage video of UK military executing civilians. But the latest release of diplomatic communications are even more significant because they show how power works, not just what it does. It gives an insight into the values, priorities and knowledge of authority that helps us to make much better-informed judgements of what those in power actually do. Surely, that is precisely what journalism is for?

It is encouraging to see how WikiLeaks is now working with mainstream news media organisations on their latest stories. It is good that the expertise within those newsrooms can be used to help filter, explain and contextualise the raw data. It can then be presented in a way that allows for proper responses by the authorities and the public. That kind of interaction is exactly what should happen over these issues, not the knee-jerk attempt to kill the messenger.

Instead of blocking access to websites and hiding behind firewalls it would be sensible for those in power to consider a more mature and transparent relationship with their citizens.

Of course, some of these revelations may compromise safety and security. There should always be limits on free expression. Responsibility comes with rights for the journalist. However, even when it is damaging, disclosure should always be welcomed. It's why it's the First Amendment.

The danger is that we are now heading towards a future where governments from Beijing to Washington will welcome more controls on the Internet. This would then limit the power of the most liberating technology the world has seen since the invention of printing itself. It would be nave to expect those in power to embrace radical accountability. So we need to fight for transparency and embrace the opportunity that initiatives like WikiLeaks represent.

I recognise that WikiLeaks is not itself entirely transparent but I think that it is becoming more so and other better versions will follow. The real problem in the world is secrecy not leakers.

Charlie Beckett is the founding director of POLIS, the journalism think-tank at the London School of Economics and UN Global Expert. He blogs at and you can reach him on Twitter at @charliebeckett.

Source: Global Experts (, a project of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Copyright 2010 Global Experts/UNAOC

Media Matters: Changing The Tone, Or Changing Our Understanding?

Before the full scope of the tragedy at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-AZ) event in Tucson this weekend had been realized, the media were buzzing about what was to be done. The debate quickly landed on issues of tone and violent language and maps with crosshairs and who's to blame and who isn't. Loud and angry confrontations broke out over whether the tone of our national discourse motivated a lone gunman. Such things are difficult to determine with any sort of accuracy. Regardless, the occasion of a brutal attack on a politician and her constituents is as good a reason as any to reexamine how we discuss politics in America.

It's easy to get wrapped up in your own cynicism, to hear the impassioned calls to curtail the talk radio bomb-throwing and Fox News scare-mongering that for years have provided the background noise to our national discourse, and be utterly and justifiably unsurprised when the volume is instead turned up. Or you can feel frustrated for harboring the hope that if any good could possibly be leached from a horrific act of violence it would perhaps be that the pundits and partisans might tone it down a bit, and then seeing that hope dashed by the immediate resumption of scathing vitriol.

I can confess to experiencing both of these contradictory emotions in the past week. But after watching President Obama's speech at the memorial service in Tucson and seeing the right-wing reaction to it, it has become clear that calls for changing the tone of our political discourse invariably fail because they place the responsibility on the same hyperpartisan actors who are paid quite well to debase it.

And let's not fool ourselves with the forced symmetry of "both sides do it," which is all too often employed in the media's overriding quest for "balance" at the expense of accuracy. On Monday, the New Yorker's George Packer observed:

In fact, there is no balance -- none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side's activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. 

Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can't stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.

Consider, briefly, Rush Limbaugh, who can make a legitimate claim to being the most influential pundit in America. In response to the pleas for civility that arose in the aftermath of the shooting, Limbaugh went on a deliberate crusade to make AM radio as ugly as possible. He said the alleged shooter has the support of the Democratic Party, intimated that the health care reform bill was intended to foment violence of the sort we saw in Arizona, brashly declared "we don't need to heal," and attacked the president for delivering hopeful news about Rep. Giffords' recovery.

Sentiments such as these are ineffably crass and are antithetical to calls for "more civility" -- but what else should we expect from Rush Limbaugh? As if to reaffirm that his existence is dedicated to poisoning public dialogue, he even revisited this week one of his low watermarks from years past, defending his attacks on Michael J. Fox's struggle with Parkinson's Disease.

So no, we can not expect right-wing pundits to police their own rhetoric. But if the punditry won't change on its own, what's to be done? The hope lies instead in drawing contrasts and hopefully, by doing so, changing how people come to view political dialogue.

A good example can be found in the right's longstanding efforts to impugn President Obama's patriotism. The idea of "American exceptionalism" has been used as a cudgel against the president since before his election, and it's had some effect -- a poll from late 2009 found that 26 percent of Americans (including 48 percent of Republicans) did not believe that Obama "loves America." The issue of Obama's patriotic bona fides has promised to be the major talking point of the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Before this week, it was commonplace for conservative pundits and politicians to blithely assert Obama's anti-American leanings and not face any scrutiny for the allegation.

But the shock of Saturday's shootings left America looking to the president for guidance, and his speech urged the country to find solace in the greatness of American strength and decency. That message made the churlish attacks on Obama's patriotism look even pettier and more divorced from reality than they already are. The desperate, false attacks on Obama's speech from his determinedly partisan detractors were aggressively debunked by the mainstream press and even denounced by right-wing bloggers. It was one of those rare moments in politics in which reality scored a crushing defeat over caricature.

That's where the power to affect positive change in the discourse lies. This week America saw the overheated rhetoric of the right for what it is: misleading, incendiary, and false. But the conservative media aren't going to pack up their chalkboards and golden microphones anytime soon, so it's up to the mainstream press to continue being as aggressive in challenging those distortions as the right is in promulgating them.

Of course, it's entirely likely that this moment of clarity will remain just that -- a moment. And it's certainly not encouraging that the media have, to date, been as (if not more) likely to adopt false right-wing narratives as debunk them.

But that's no reason to give up hope, and it's certainly no reason to stop telling the truth.

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