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Megaphone

Senator Al Franken: from SNL spoofer to State surveillance hawk

Al used to be a funny guy. Now, he's not.

Make no mistake about it, if Bush were president at the moment, Little Al would be attacking him mercilessly.

But with Obama in the White House, Al sings a different tune.

The NSA spying is A-OK. No problem.

"I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people."

Thanks, Al.

"There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that are not appropriate for the bad guys to know."

Al, you see, has been briefed. He's bought into those "high-level" briefings. He now resides in a rarefied elite atmosphere. If Senator Al says NSA is good, it must be.

If you believe him, I've got condos for sale on Jupiter.
Whistle

Did someone help Ed Snowden punch a hole in the NSA?

Ed Snowden, NSA leaker. Honest man. Doing what was right. Bravo.

That still doesn't preclude the possibility that, unknown to him, he was managed by people to put him the right place to expose NSA secrets.

Snowden's exposure of NSA was a righteous act, because that agency is a RICO criminal. But that doesn't mean we have the whole story.

How many people work in classified jobs for the NSA? And here is one man, Snowden, who is working for Booz Allen, an outside contractor, but is assigned to NSA, and he can get access to, and copy, documents that expose the spying collaboration between NSA and the biggest tech companies in the world - and he can get away with it.

If so, then NSA is a sieve leaking out of all holes. Because that means a whole lot of other, higher NSA employees can likewise steal these documents. Many, many other people can copy them and take them. Poof.
Sherlock

NSA leaker: are there serious cracks in Ed Snowden's story?

First, I'm not doubting the documents Ed Snowden has brought forward. I'm not doubting the illegal reach of the NSA in spying on Americans and the world.

But as to how this recent revelation happened, and whether Ed Snowden's history holds up...I have questions.

Could Snowden have been given extraordinary access to classified info as part of a larger scheme? Could he be a) an honest man and yet b) a guy who was set up to do what he's doing now?

If b) is true, then Snowden fits the bill perfectly. He wants to do what he's doing. He isn't lying about that. He means what he says.

Okay. Let's look at his history as reported by The Guardian.
Vader

NSA, the secret AT&T spy room, 2 Israeli companies, and loss of American privacy

Boom. Explosive revelations. The NSA is using telecom giants to spy on anybody and everybody, in a program called PRISM.

But the information is not new.

Three books have been written about the super-secret NSA, and James Bamford has written them all.

In 2008, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Bamford as his latest book, The Shadow Factory, was being released.

Bamford explained that, in the 1990s, everything changed for NSA. Previously, they'd been able to intercept electronic communications by using big dishes to capture what was coming down to Earth from telecom satellites.

But with the shift to fiber-optic cables, NSA was shut out. So they devised new methods.
Snowflake Cold

Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

© Les Stone/REUTERS
US domestic surveillance has targeted anti-fracking activists across the country.
NSA Prism is motivated in part by fears that environmentally-linked disasters could spur anti-government activism

Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data harvested by the NSA's Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis - or all three.

Comment: Read Laura Knight Jadczyk's writing's about possible future (and past) climate and political events:

Comets and the Horns of Moses
The Apocalypse: Comets, Asteroids and Cyclical Catastrophes
Tunguska, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction
Fire and Ice: The Day After Tomorrow

Listen to a discussion on the topic of growing concern:

SOTT Talk Radio: Climate Change, Food Shortages and the Future

Radar

Senators skipped classified briefing on NSA snooping to catch flights home

A recent briefing by senior intelligence officials on surveillance programs failed to attract even half of the Senate, showing the lack of enthusiasm in Congress for learning about classified security programs.


Many senators elected to leave Washington early Thursday afternoon instead of attending a briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials.

The Senate held its last vote of the week a little after noon on Thursday, and many lawmakers were eager to take advantage of the short day and head back to their home states for Father's Day weekend.

Only 47 of 100 senators attended the 2:30 briefing, leaving dozens of chairs in the secure meeting room empty as Clapper, Alexander and other senior officials told lawmakers about classified programs to monitor millions of telephone calls and broad swaths of Internet activity. The room on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center is large enough to fit the entire Senate membership, according to a Senate aide.

The Hill was not provided the names of who did, and who didn't, attend the briefing.


Comment: Ask the NSA, they'll analyze the metadata and tell you exactly who was or wasn't there.

Light Sabers

Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria

US urges UK and France to join in supplying arms to Syrian rebels as MPs fear that UK will be drawn into growing conflict
Washington's decision to arm Syria's Sunni Muslim rebels has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East, entering a struggle that now dwarfs the Arab revolutions which overthrew dictatorships across the region.

For the first time, all of America's 'friends' in the region are Sunni Muslims and all of its enemies are Shiites. Breaking all President Barack Obama's rules of disengagement, the US is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.

The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran - even before last week's presidential election - to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad's regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic's security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new 'Syrian' front on the Golan Heights against Israel.

In years to come, historians will ask how America - after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014 - could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed. The profound effects of this great schism, between Sunnis who believe that the father of Mohamed's wife was the new caliph of the Muslim world and Shias who regard his son in law Ali as his rightful successor - a seventh century battle swamped in blood around the present-day Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala - continue across the region to this day. A 17th century Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, compared this Muslim conflict to that between "Papists and Protestants".
Bad Guys

Czech Republic's prime minister forced to resign over scandal hit-aide

Move by Petr Necas follows bribery and spying order charges brought against head of his office

© Reuters
The Czech Republic's prime minister, Petr Necas, centre, announces his resignation.
The Czech prime minister, Petr Necas, has been forced to quit after a fraud and spying scandal involving his closest aide, pitching the European Union member state into a period of uncertainty.

Under the Czech constitution, the whole government will now have to step down, and there is likely to be horse-trading between the governing coalition, the opposition and the president before a replacement is in place.

Necas quit days after prosecutors charged the head of his office, Jana Nagyova, with bribing members of parliament and ordering intelligence agents to spy on people. One of the surveillance targets, according to lawyers involved in the case, was the prime minister's own wife, whom he is divorcing.

Necas has said he knew nothing about the surveillance, but the charges were so toxic that his coalition partners signalled they could no longer support him.

Necas told a news conference that he would officially resign on Monday.
Eye 1

Attacks in Iraq kill 51, injure many others

The death toll from a series of bombings and a shooting across Iraq has risen to 51, with many more injured, Iraqi security and hospital sources say.


The site of a car bomb blast in Baghdad, Iraq
Sunday's blasts began with a parked car bomb which exploded in the city of Kut -- 60 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Six people were killed and 15 others wounded in that attack, The Associated Press reported.

The attack was followed by another car bomb outside the city which targeted construction workers, killing five and wounded 12 others, police officials said.

One of the deadliest attacks took place in the Shia-populated neighborhood of al-Ameen in southeastern Baghdad. Police said a bomber blew himself up inside a cafe, killing at least 11 people and wounding 25 others.

A shooting also broke out near the northern city of Mosul, when a gunman attacked police guarding an oil pipeline. At least four people were killed and five others wounded in the incident.

Other attacks were carried out in the cities of Hillah, Madian, Aziziyah, Mahmudiyah, Nasiriyah, Tuz Khurmatu, Najaf, and Basra on Sunday. Reports said that most of the car bombs hit Shia-majority areas.
Eye 1

Syria: Egypt has joined Israeli-US club


Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi addresses a rally in Cairo on June 15, 2013
Syria says by announcing the cutting off of all diplomatic relations with Damascus the Egyptian government has joined the Israeli-US club, which is conspiring against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing a public rally in Cairo on Saturday, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced, "We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian" government.

He said that his government would close the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, adding that it would also recall the Egyptian charge d'affaires from Damascus.

"The Syrian Arab Republic condemns this irresponsible position," the official news agency SANA reported on Sunday quoting an unnamed government official.

Morsi had joined the "conspiracy and incitement led by the United States and Israel against Syria by announcing the cutting of ties yesterday," the official said.
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