Puppet Masters


GOP and Feinstein join to fulfill Obama's demand for renewed warrantless eavesdropping

© Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein joined with GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss (right) to extend Obama's warrantless eavesdropping powers.
To this day, many people identify mid-2008 as the time they realized what type of politician Barack Obama actually is. Six months before, when seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster "any bill" that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.

But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that - the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 - and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself. That blatant, unblinking violation of his own clear promise - actively supporting a bill he had sworn months earlier he would block from a vote - caused a serious rift even in the middle of an election year between Obama and his own supporters.

Critically, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 did much more than shield lawbreaking telecoms from all forms of legal accountability. Jointly written by Dick Cheney and then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, it also legalized vast new, sweeping and almost certainly unconstitutional forms of warrantless government eavesdropping.

Guantánamo Bay's other anniversary: 110 years of a legal black hole

© Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
This January sees the fourth anniversary of President Obama's unfulfilled executive order closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp.
As the fourth anniversary of Obama's pledge to close Guantánamo approaches, the pressure is on: it's been far too long, and the moment is now. But why is Guantánamo so hard to close?

Because it's been an integral part of American politics and policy for over a century. To understand what it takes to close Guantánamo, we should look to how we've failed - and succeeded - in closing it before.

Gitmo's "legal black hole" opened in 1903 with a peculiar lease that affirmed Cuba's total sovereignty over Guantánamo Bay, but gave the US "complete jurisdiction and control". This inadvertently created a space where neither nation's laws clearly applied: a purgatory that's been used to park people whose legal rights posed political threats. Gitmo's generations of detainees have been inextricable, if often invisible, parts of America's deepest conflicts: over immigration, public health, human rights, and national security.

In 1991, thousands fled Haiti on makeshift boats, seeking political asylum in the US. Determined to rescue refugees from certain death at sea, but unwilling to accept so many, Bush I ordered the US coast guard to take over 20,000 to Gitmo. Most were returned to Haiti. But about 200 got caught in the middle: approved for asylum, but barred from the US for being HIV-positive. These refugees staged protests and harnessed international media attention. Concerned citizens lined US streets calling to close Guantánamo; Harold Koh (then at Yale Law) organized a legal battle.

In June 1993, a US district court judge ordered the camps closed. Public attention faded, overlooking that while the ruling released the individuals, it upheld the policy, allowing Gitmo to be used for indefinite detention.
Arrow Down

Dick Morris' terrible 2012

In May, O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly told Fox News political analyst Dick Morris that because he was "so far out on the limb" predicting a Romney win in the presidential election, if Obama were to be re-elected Morris would be "through" and "selling refrigerators in Topeka." Seven months later, following Obama's comfortable re-election, Morris isn't selling appliances in Kansas (that we know of), but he's the laughingstock of the political pundit class and has temporarily been benched at Fox News.

Like most other years of Morris' media career, 2012 was marked by terribly inaccurate election predictions, habitual dishonesty, and questionable ethical conflicts. Unlike most other years, however, Morris appears to actually be facing consequences and backlash for his role as America's Worst Political Pundit.

After Morris made more than fifteen appearances on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record in October and early November, he's been absent from the network's primetime lineup since November 12 following reports that producers now have to get special permission to book him (or Karl Rove) on their shows. He has also been publicly criticized by numerous media ethicists from prominent newspapers and universities, countless political writers and reporters in the U.S. (and abroad, donors to his shady super PAC, and his colleagues at The Hill newspaper.

Appearing on Fox & Friends the day before the election to discuss his prediction of a "landslide" Romney victory, Morris said of the various people predicting an Obama win, "either I'm gonna have to go through a big reckoning, or they are. And you know what? They are."

It was another prediction that wouldn't shake out.

Jimmy Savile declared 'love' for Margaret Thatcher in handwritten letter

Jimmy Savile's hold over Downing Street in the 1980s is revealed in a series of letters in which he declares his "love" for Margaret Thatcher, according to newly released records.

Photo: National Archives/PA
National Archives files show that Savile met with Mrs Thatcher at both Downing Street and Chequers in his successful attempts to secure a £500,000 donation from the government for the rebuilding of Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

In a hand-written letter, sent to Mrs Thatcher in February 1980, Savile says his "girl patients" were "madly jealous" of her. He later asked her to appear on Jim'll Fix It, a request which she declined.

Since his death it has emerged that Savile allegedly sexually abused sick girls at the hospital, some of whom were as young as eight. As a major donor at the hospital he was left "free to roam" the wards and even had his own room.

The hospital is only three miles from the Prime Minister's official residence, Chequers, and Savile became a friend of Mrs Thatcher. The pair reportedly spent New Year's Eve together 11 years in a row.

However, the Cabinet Office refused to release a record of a telephone conversation between Thatcher and Savile in February 1980 and an undated letter because they were considered "confidential". They will not be published for another decade.
Eye 2

Nothing new: Thatcher's mentor urged her to run a 'campaign of fear' to cut teenage pregnancies

'The young concerned tend to be the least mature from the least good homes', Thatcher was told in 1982
Margaret Thatcher's 'ideological mentor' urged her to run a campaign of fear to deter teenage girls from becoming pregnant, according to newly published files.

Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph wanted the Government to produce a series of 'scare' films in an attempt to curb the number of pregnancies among immature adolescents from 'the least good homes'.

Joseph - one of Mrs Thatchers closest Cabinet allies - believed a 'sharply rising trend' of bad parenting was a 'major cause of poor education and crime', and he had no doubt who was responsible, according to official papers released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule.

'Those girls who are at most risk will tend neither to restrain themselves nor insist on or use contraceptives nor to have sufficient grip even to consider abortion in sufficient time.'

His solution, he acknowledged, would be controversial.

'One possibility - delicate and fraught with risk - would be to try to use, in connection with pregnancy, the approach used in connection with cigarette smoking - that is fear,' he said.

Drone attack in Pakistan kills four; bodies burnt beyond recognition

An official says eight missiles hit a house and bodies were burnt beyond recognition.
US drones targeting a suspected militant compound on Friday killed four people in Pakistan's restive tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials said.

The attack took place in Gurbuz town, 65 kilometres southwest of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district, a security official said.

"The drones fired two missiles on a house believed to be a militant centre. Four militants were killed and two injured," he said.

Another official said eight missiles hit the house and the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

"We have no information about the identity of those killed in the missile strike," the official said.

A security official in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar confirmed the toll.

The other Bradley Manning: Jeremy Hammond faces life term for WikiLeaks and hacked Stratfor emails

A federal judge has refused to recuse herself from the closely watched trial of jailed computer hacker Jeremy Hammond, an alleged member of the group "Anonymous" charged with hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor and turning over some five million emails to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Hammond's lawyers had asked Federal Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband worked for a client of Stratfor, and himself had his email hacked. Hammond's supporters say the Stratfor documents shed light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. He has been held without bail or trial for more than nine months. We speak with Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, about Hammond's case.


Western-backed terrorists in Syria attempt to blow passenger plane out of the sky

Newly-released video footage shows militants in Syria using anti-aircraft fire to shoot at, what appears to be, a passenger plane.

In the video, circulated on the Internet on Thursday, a militant is heard saying in Arabic, "It's a mistake. That's a passenger plane."

"No, it's a warplane," another one says.

A third militant is heard saying, "Even if it's a passenger plane, Sheikh Ahmad says shoot it down."

The militants then fire at the plane, but it is not clear whether the aircraft is actually downed.

Turkey kills 13 PKK rebels

Thirteen militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were killed in the Hatay and Osmaniye provinces as a result of a special operation conducted by Turkish Security Forces, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Six militants were detained during the special operation. Also ammunition owned by the PKK was seized.

Turkish army resumed military operations against them PKK militants after they became active.

Over 10 months Turkish security forces have rendered harmless 716 PKK militants, including 496 terrorists have been killed, 21 were wounded, 44 were arrested and 155 surrendered to the authorities.

During this period, the security forces have held six large-scale and 19 local operations against militants.

The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has lasted for over 25 years. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by both the UN and the EU.

3 police, 10 Taliban killed in clashes in Afghanistan

Three Afghan police and 10 Taliban insurgents were killed in separate clashes in Afghanistan, local officials said Tuesday.

Eight Taliban insurgents were killed and 18 others were injured in a joint Afghan-Nato operations in Abuzio, Raml, Katal, Maidani, Shahid Ba Ba, Sayed Kala, Agha Kuli, Basram and Badi Abad distrits of eastern Laghman province on Monday, local security officials said.

Two Afghan policemen were also killed in the operations, officials said.

The joint forces have seized many weapons during the operations, officials added.

It comes as an Afghan police and two Taliban insurgents were killed in clashes in Ala Say district of northeastern Kapisa province, provincial governor Mehrabuddin Safi said.

Four civilians, including a women and child, were injured in the clashes, he said.

In the past a week, several Taliban commanders has been captured or killed by Afghan and Nato operations.