Monday, June 27, 2011

A Cracked Court, A Hacked System And Crackpots Running For President.

A Cracked Court, A Hacked System And Crackpots Running For President.

What’s a war crime?

By William A. COLLINS

John Demjanjuk? Now there’s a war criminal for you, and we finally got him. Though he had long lived in the United States, Germany just sentenced him to life in prison. Well, at home actually, since he’s too sick for jail and only has a couple months left. There’s no evidence he ever killed anyone, but as a death camp prison guard he saw plenty of folks gassed.

That was 1941, 70 years ago. Somehow war crimes seemed clearer then. We knew when soldiers of one nation massacred civilians of another, or maybe even their own. In the fallout of a war, the winners got to decide who the criminals were. That part hasn’t really changed. Whether it’s Poland compared to Dresden, Chongqing compared to Hiroshima, Baghdad compared to New York, or Misrata compared to Tripoli, what’s a crime and what isn’t depends largely on who wins, who controls the International Criminal Court, and who controls the press. Luckily for us, the West has steady control of them all.

Otherwise this Libya thing could get awkward. An objective tribunal might become quizzical about the world’s most powerful countries assassinating members of another nation’s first family and giving a good go at killing Muammar Gaddafi himself. This at the same time they are already bombing his country to smithereens and setting up their own local government to take over the oil and gold — not to mention seeding the soil with depleted uranium, guaranteed to cause cancer and deformity for generations to come.

Rogue independence

Why are we mutilating Libya? Maybe because it has all that oil, gold, and water, a decent standard of living, free college, free health care, an independent banking system, and a penchant for not attending to the desires of London, Paris, Rome, Brussels, or New York. Apparently, Washington can’t let that sort of rogue independence go on, rule of law or not.
Of course Gaddafi, very much like the rulers of Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, has indeed been brutal toward the citizens who have protested his autocratic ways. But Syria and Yemen have no oil, and Bahrain harbors the U.S. Fifth Fleet, so they will all probably remain safe from Western “assistance.”

Typically, our nation has never been infected with guilt over any of our own dark acts.

But we do rightly take umbrage at many of the grisly activities perpetrated by Sudan’s Arab militiamen, Congolese rebels, the Taliban, militant Serbs, genocidal Hutus, al-Qaida extremists, Cambodian Communists, and others.

Collins wrote this for OtherWords, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.

Hack attacks by LulzSec and Anonymous suggest an uptick in computer attacks, network break-ins, and

data breaches.


Hack attacks from online thugs such as Anonymous and LulzSec appear to signal a hacker Armageddon. Not only has Sony been relentlessly targeted by hackers this year so has the Central Intelligence Agency, Sega,, the U.K. government, and dozens of other high-profile company and government agency Web sites.

But security experts say despite the uptick in reported computer attacks, network break-ins, and data breaches the volume of hack attacks is not rising. What has changed is that hacker groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec have gotten media savvy creating an illusion of an escalating cyberwar that in reality does not exist, says Graham Cluley senior technology consultant at the security firm Sophos.

LulzSec and Anonymous Love the Limelight

Social networking tools have made it easy for hackers to brag about their exploits - sometimes issuing press releases - where in the past hackers lurked quietly in the shadows, Cluley says.

"There's no reliable count of just how many hacks take place," Cluley says. "What has changed recently is that some of the hackers are getting more effective and keener to publicize their hacks."

Anonymous and LulzSec, Cluley says, have elaborate public relations components to publicize their hacking exploits. LulzSec uses Twitter frequently, while Anonymous has set up a blog which purpose is to issue press releases on its latest exploits. Anonymous also has several YouTube channels.

Such public display of their work is unusual, says SANS Internet Center's Johnannes Ullrich. "Usually, attackers try to avoid this kind of publicity," he said via an e-mail exchange. Better publicity means more news coverage, and thus the appearance of increasing hacks.

Chest Pounding Sounds the Alarm

The silver lining to public hack attacks is attention brought to security holes that exist across the Internet, says Jim Stickley, Trace Security's chief technology officer. The public needs to know when it's putting its personal information at risk, he says.

"There is no doubt these attacks have brought attention to a fundamental problem that most people would prefer to ignore," Stickley says. "It doesn't matter how much you spend on technology ... there is a very good chance hackers will be able to gain some level of access."

In fact Stickley says he wouldn't be surprised if many of us have already had our personal information exposed once or maybe several times in the past several years. Ullrich seemed to share those concerns.

"I do think the larger threat comes from attacks we don't hear about, and users should always be concerned about how well their data is secured," he said, "In many ways, the very public attacks performed by LulzSec may help improve some of these problems."

Even Odds on Hackers' Apprehension

With better context on the recent hacks, the next logical question for many is whether these hackers will ever get caught. Security researchers say the odds are about even.

"The problem is if they are just hacking for the fun of it and not trying to profit from it, then it is very difficult to find a direct trail back to them," Stickley answered. Ullrich added that it may be time consuming to pin down the hackers.

Ironically, hackers themselves seem to be aiding authorities. "Someone will be careless, someone will talk, or maybe a sizeable reward will be offered," Ullrich says.

On Tuesday U.K.'s Scotland Yard arrested Ryan Cleary on hacking charges. It's unknown if Cleary has direct ties to hacker group LulzSec as authorities suspect. Internet reports claim Cleary hosted online chats for LulzSec members and was not a member. That didn't stop LulzSec hackers from ratting outthose who turn against it.

"The hackers would be sensible to stop now, or risk getting into even bigger trouble, Ullrich says.

"Welcome to Operation Anti-Security (#AntiSec). We encourage any vessel, large or small, to open fire on any government or agency that crosses their path. We fully endorse the flaunting of the word 'AntiSec' on any government website defacement or physical graffiti art."

Salutations Lulz Lizards,

As we're aware, the government and whitehat security terrorists across the world continue to dominate and control our Internet ocean. Sitting pretty on cargo bays full of corrupt booty, they think it's acceptable to condition and enslave all vessels in sight. Our Lulz Lizard battle fleet is now declaring immediate and unremitting war on the freedom-snatching moderators of 2011.

Welcome to Operation Anti-Security (#AntiSec) - we encourage any vessel, large or small, to open fire on any government or agency that crosses their path. We fully endorse the flaunting of the word "AntiSec" on any government website defacement or physical graffiti art. We encourage you to spread the word of AntiSec far and wide, for it will be remembered. To increase efforts, we are now teaming up with the Anonymous collective and all affiliated battleships.

Whether you're sailing with us or against us, whether you hold past grudges or a burning desire to sink our lone ship, we invite you to join the rebellion. Together we can defend ourselves so that our privacy is not overrun by profiteering gluttons. Your hat can be white, gray or black, your skin and race are not important. If you're aware of the corruption, expose it now, in the name of Anti-Security.

Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation. Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments. If they try to censor our progress, we will obliterate the censor with cannonfire anointed with lizard blood.

It's now or never. Come aboard, we're expecting you...

History begins today.


Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Abu Ghraib Inmates Claiming War Crimes Violations

Seven years after the release of shocking images of tortured prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the Supreme Court has turned back the appeal of 26 inmates from that infamous facility who wanted to sue two military contractors for damages. 

The military's official investigation revealed "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" committed by military personnel and civilian contractors who provided support services at the prison. 

More than two dozen soldiers were reprimanded or court-martialed for their conduct. But those who were tortured want to sue two firms that hired the civilians who helped the military with translations and interrogations. 
The investigative report authored by now retired Major Gen. Antonio Taguba concluded that the civilians hired by CACI International and Titan Corporation "(did) not appear to be properly supervised within the detention facility." He also identified specific civilian employees who were involved in the torture but lacked the authority to court martial those workers who also escaped criminal prosecution in civilian courts. 

The prisoners filed a lawsuit in federal court against the two companies claiming war crimes violations. But the lawsuit was quickly tossed by the judge who determined that federal law does not allow for claims of war crimes against private parties. A divided appellate court upheld the decision to block the lawsuit. 

Judge Merrick Garland, who last year was strongly considered for a spot on the high court by President Obama, wrote a dissent saying the companies should not be immune from standing trial.

"No act of Congress and no judicial precedent bars the plaintiffs from suing the private contractors," Garland said. 

Lawyers for the prisoners argued that upholding the lower court ruling will "create unnecessary and serious problems for the (president's) diplomatic efforts." They also argued that the 2-1 decision from the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals runs counter to the expressed wishes of Congress and the White House "that non-state actors who torture prisoners in the course of an armed conflict are guilty of war crimes." 

In asking the high court to stay out of the case, lawyers for Titan defended the D.C. Circuit's determination that that, "during wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be preempted." 

The Obama administration was asked for its views of the case and Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal said the court should stay out of the dispute even though the government expressed deep reservations about the analysis of the lower court's ruling. 

Katyal said "further percolation" of the issues presented in this case and another recently turned away by the court is warranted.

Washington, D.C. — In a decision that runs contrary to the United States’ treaty obligations and moral standing, the U.S. Supreme Court, with the support of the U.S. government, told 250 alleged victims of torture inflicted by U.S. private military contractors at Abu Ghraib and other sites that they cannot seek a remedy against the perpetrators in U.S. courts.  Today, the Court declined to hear the case of Saleh, et al. v. Titan Corporation, et al. a civil suit brought by Iraqi detainees alleging torture, abuse, and sexual violence by U.S. private contractors CACI and Titan (now L-3 Services) who provided interrogation and translation services at the notorious Iraqi prison.

In September 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the civil case on the ground that the contractors were involved in combat activities and therefore, should be protected from lawsuits. Before deciding whether or not to hear the case, the Supreme Court asked the U.S. government, which is not a party to the suit, its opinion on the case.  While noting the shortcomings of the appellate court’s ruling, the U.S. government recommended that the Court should decline to hear the case, effectively denying victims a remedy.
“This decision, which was supported by the Obama administration, informs the world that the United States of America has no intention of obeying its moral and legal obligation to provide enforceable remedies to victims of sadistic acts of torture alleged to have been committed by military contractors,” said Human Rights First’s International Legal Director Gabor Rona.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the United States must provide “enforceable” or “effective” remedies to victims for acts of torture and serious abuse.

The shocking and infamous photos of abuse showed the world the events at Abu Ghraib. The Department of Defense reported that Abu Ghraib was the site of “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of Iraqi detainees by Americans while under U.S. custody. Eleven soldiers were convicted on detainee abuse charges and Army investigations implicated at least five private contractors in similar crimes. In spite of this evidence no contractor was ever charged.
Rona concluded, “Last week on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, President Obama proclaimed that the United States ‘will remain a leader in the effort to end torture around the world and to address the needs of torture victims.’ Nothing undermines the credibility of the United States as a voice for human rights and for respect for the rule of law more than its hypocritical dismissal of the suffering of torture victims at the hands of the U.S. government and its agents.”

Human Rights First submitted an amicus brief arguing that the decision by the D.C. Circuit to immunize the criminal conduct of private military contractors is incompatible with the United States’ international legal obligations.

Human Rights First sent a letter to the Acting Solicitor General urging the government to advise the Court to hear the case and reverse the decision that denies victims a remedy.

Human Rights First’s blog on how the U.S. government’s brief undermines torture victims right to a remedy can be found here

Qaddafi Out of Options as War-Crimes Indictment Limits Exile Destinations
Serbian leader Slobodan Milosovic was indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal in 1999. Yet he was not arrested by Belgrade authorities until 2001, after the US demanded the Yugoslav government capture the former president or lose economic aid. ...See all stories on this topic »

Irish Times

The warrants were necessary, she said, to ensure the three men could not use their power to hinder the court inquiry, could not continue to commit or cover up crimes against civilians, and to ensure they appeared ultimately before the war crimes court. ...See all stories on this topic »

As the prolonged hunt for Bosnian Serb Gen Ratko Mladic and the as-yet unsuccessful bid to bring to book Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir have proved, the issuing of an arrest warrant by war crimescourts may seem to be more an act of political symbolism ...See all stories on this topic »

Michele Bachmann's Holy War

The Tea Party contender may seem like a goofball, but be warned: Her presidential campaign is no laughing matter

By MATT TAIBBI JUNE 22, 2011 8:00 AM ET

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, as you consider the career and future presidential prospects of an incredible American phenomenon named Michele Bachmann, do one more thing. Don't laugh.
It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics. Fans of obscure 1970s television may remember a short-lived children's show called Far Out Space Nuts, in which a pair of dimwitted NASA repairmen, one of whom is played by Bob (Gilligan) Denver, accidentally send themselves into space by pressing "launch" instead of "lunch" inside a capsule they were fixing at Cape Canaveral. This plot device roughly approximates the political and cultural mechanism that is sending Michele Bachmann hurtling in the direction of the Oval Office.

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution.
"It's your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!" she gushed. "You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard."
I said lunch, not launch! But don't laugh. Don't do it. And don't look her in the eyes; don't let her smile at you. Michele Bachmann, when she turns her head toward the cameras and brandishes her pearls and her ageless, unblemished neckline and her perfect suburban orthodontics in an attempt to reassure the unbeliever of her non-threateningness, is one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau. She's trying to look like June Cleaver, but she actually looks like the T2 skeleton posing for a passport photo. You will want to laugh, but don't, because the secret of Bachmann's success is that every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger.
In modern American politics, being the right kind of ignorant and entertainingly crazy is like having a big right hand in boxing; you've always got a puncher's chance. And Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely batshit crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy — crazy in the sense that she's living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle she's built in there, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies.
Bachmann's story, to hear her tell it, is about a suburban homemaker who is chosen by God to become a politician who will restore faith and family values to public life and do battle with secular humanism. But by the time you've finished reviewing her record of lies and embellishments and contradictions, you'll have no idea if she actually believes in her own divine inspiration, or whether it's a big con job. Or maybe both are true — in which case this hard-charging challenger for the GOP nomination is a rare breed of political psychopath, equal parts crazed Divine Wind kamikaze-for-Jesus and calculating, six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator. Whatever she is, she's no joke.
Bachmann was born Michele Amble in Waterloo, Iowa, to a pair of lifelong Democrats, but grew up in tiny Anoka, Minnesota. By her teen years, her parents had divorced; her mother remarried and brought step-siblings into the home, creating a Brady Bunchian group of nine kids. One of Bachmann's step-siblings, Helen LaFave, would later come out as a lesbian, a fact that Michele, who became famous opposing gay marriage, never mentions on the campaign trail. For the most part, though, Bachmann's upbringing seems like pure Americana, a typical Midwestern girl who was "in a couple of beauty pageants" and "not overtly political," according to her stepbrother Michael LaFave.

Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.
Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of "the law from a biblical worldview," has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush's presidency might recognize the school's current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.
Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become "change agents" who would help bring the law more in line with "eternal principles of justice," i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy.
This background is significant considering Bachmann's leadership role in the Tea Party, a movement ostensibly founded on ideas of limited government. Bachmann says she believes in a limited state, but she was educated in an extremist Christian tradition that rejects the entire notion of a separate, secular legal authority and views earthly law as an instrument for interpreting biblical values. As a legislator, she not only worked to impose a ban on gay marriage, she also endorsed a report that proposed banning anyone who "espoused or supported Shariah law" from immigrating to the U.S. (Bachmann seems so unduly obsessed with Shariah law that, after listening to her frequent pronouncements on the subject, one begins to wonder if her crazed antipathy isn't born of professional jealousy.)
This discrepancy may account for why some Tea Party leaders don't buy Bachmann as a champion of small government. "Michele Bachmann is — what's the old-school term? — a poser," says Chris Littleton, an Ohio Tea Party leader troubled by her support of the Patriot Act and other big-government interventions. "Look at her record and see how 'Tea Party' she really is."
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Michele Bachmann may be as right wing as they get, but she wants you to know she's just another American, like you and me, who wants to get our country back on track. And she'd like us to start by remembering that we don't need big government when we ...See all stories on this topic »
Robertson: God Will Destroy America For ... - Right Wing Watch
By Brian Tashman
So you say, “what's going to happen to America?” Well if history is any guide, the same thing's going to happen to us. … It's not a pretty world we live in right now, and we need all of God's help we can get. And I don't think we are ...Right Wing Watch

The Supreme Court struck down a key provision of an Arizona campaign-finance law that provided matching funds for publicly funded candidates, further solidifying the court’s record of opposition to election reforms that limit speech.
The 5-4 majority ruled that the 1998 Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, which gives publicly financed candidates roughly a dollar for every dollar raised or spent by their privately funded rivals, violates the Constitution by restricting the free-speech rights of privately funded candidates and their donors.
The court reasoned that candidates who raise their own funding may be reluctant to spend it, knowing that their rivals will be rewarded with a counter-match. Political action committees and other donors may be especially wary of inadvertently funding candidates with whom they disagree.
“Any increase in speech resulting from the Arizona law is of one kind and one kind only: that of publicly financed candidates. The burden imposed on privately financed candidates and independent-expenditure groups reduces their speech,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the majority opinion for Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy,Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
The decision comes nearly a year and a half after another high-profile campaign-finance ruling, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which a 5-4 majority struck down federal prohibitions on corporate and union campaign spending.
That ruling was hotly criticized by Democrats and liberal groups, who accused the court of clearing the way for corporations to buy elections. Monday’s decision also came under fire for what critics described as tipping the scales in favor of the rich.
“I am concerned that todays opinion, as well as the Citizens United decision, will no doubt lead to the drowning out of individual voices of hardworking Americans by powerful special interests,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said “the Roberts court has issued another disastrous campaign-finance decision.”
“Starting with Citizens United, Chief Justice Roberts and his conservative colleagues have been systematically dismantling our nation’s campaign-finance laws, ensuring that only the richest Americans will have a say in the political process,” she said.
Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute’s director of constitutional studies and lead attorney in the case, countered that the decision “protects democratic elections and gets government’s heavy thumb off the scale.”
Arizona was among the national leaders in campaign-finance reform after the state was blindsided by a series of corruption scandals. The situation culminated in the 1991 “AZ-scam” case, in which seven state legislators were indicted for accepting campaign contributions or bribes in exchange for votes on casino-gambling legislation.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing the dissent, argued that states have the right to protect the legitimacy of the elections process by keeping “massive pools of private money from corrupting our political system.”
“Arizonans deserve better,” Justice Kagan wrote. “Like citizens across this country, Arizonans deserve a government that represents and serves them all. And no less, Arizonans deserve the chance to reform their electoral system so as to attain that most American of goals.”
The Arizona case was brought by five conservative politicians and two political action committees, including the Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC. The club president, Steve Voeller, said: “The court got it absolutely right.”
He argued the Arizona law had already placed a chilling effect on campaign spending and speech. For example, if his organization’s PAC wanted to give $10,000 to a privately financed candidate who had three publicly financed rivals, the result would be the candidate’s rivals receiving about $10,000 each from the state.
“Our money would be tripled against us,” said Mr. Voeller. “So if we wanted to support a candidate, we’d have to think long and hard about whether it would do any good.”
Even so, the law has proven popular among Arizona politicians. About two-thirds of all candidates for state office took advantage of the public-financing option through the 2008 election, said Michael Becker, voter education manager of Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which administers the law.

The Supreme Court suspended the matching-funds provision prior to the 2010 election in anticipation of a decision, which dropped participation to about 50 percent of all candidates, said Mr. Becker.

Funding for the public financing comes mainly from a 10 percent surcharge on criminal fines and penalties, such as speeding tickets, as well as from voluntary contributions. In order to qualify for public funding, candidates must first collect $5 donations from a specified number of donors, depending on the office.

The ruling leaves in place some provisions of the Arizona law. Publicly funded candidates will continue to receive a base-level grant from the state after meeting certain thresholds for both the primary and general elections.

That could change, however, as a result of a referendum to strike down the entire law slated to appear on the 2012 ballot. The measure, referred to the ballot by the Republican-controlled state legislature, would eliminate all public funding in Arizona elections.

The high court’s ruling Monday “is really the first break in the dam on public financing in Arizona,” said Mr. Voeller.

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