Puppet Masters


Edward Snowden: the ghost at the Pulitzer Prizes feast

Edward Snowden
© Getty
Edward Snowden addresses the SXSW media conference.
Next month, the trustees who oversee America's most distinguished journalistic award could face their toughest decision in at least four decades.

The issue before the Pulitzer Prize Board: Does it honor reporting by The Washington Post and The Guardian based on stolen government documents that are arguably detrimental to the national security of the United States, and which were provided by a man who many see as a traitor? Or, does it pass over what is widely viewed as the single most significant story of the year - if not the decade - for the sake of playing it safe?

The politically charged debate surrounding the National Security Agency's widespread domestic surveillance program, and the man who revealed it, Edward Snowden, is certain to prompt intense discussion for the 19-member Board as it gathers to decide this year's winners, according to past Board members, veteran journalists and media watchdogs. The debate echoes the historic decision in 1972, when the Board honored The New York Times for its reporting on Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers, they said.

"This is an institutional question for them," said Robert Kaiser, the veteran Washington Post journalist and a previous Pulitzer Prize finalist. "This is a very good argument to have, and there are members of that Board who are going to raise these questions and want to talk about them."

The risks are manifold, and there is no easy answer: Honoring the NSA reporting - particularly in the coveted category of Public Service - would inevitably be perceived as a political act, with the Pulitzer committee invoking its prestige on behalf of one side in a bitter national argument. In effect, it would be a rebuttal to prominent establishment voices in both parties who say that Snowden's revelations, and the decision by journalists to publish them, were the exact opposite of a public service. President Barack Obama has said that Snowden's leaks "could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come." Former Vice President Dick Cheney has called him "a traitor." Snowden, who is living in Russia, is facing three felony charges in a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department.

Yet to pass on the NSA story would be to risk giving the appearance of timidity, siding with the government over the journalists who are trying to hold it accountable and ignoring the most significant disclosure of state secrets in recent memory. It would also look like a willful decision to deny the obvious: No other event has had as dramatic an impact on national and international debates over state surveillance and individual privacy. Last December, in a move that Snowden later described as vindication, a federal district judge ruled that the NSA surveillance Snowden exposed most likely violates the Constitution. Another judge later found the surveillance lawful.

"The stories that came out of this completely changed the agenda on the discussion on privacy and the NSA," said David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. "There's an enormous public good in that, and it's yet to be proven at all that somehow did great damage to national security."

Congress fed up with presidents taking action without legal oversight

Judge Andrew Napolitano said Thursday on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that while the number of executive orders President Obama has issued may not outnumber those of his predecessors, the types of actions he has pursued are cause for concern.

"The president of the United States said to 11 million illegal immigrants, 'Hey, do A, B, C, D, and E, and I won't deport you,'" Judge Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, said. "Where'd he get A, B, C, D, and E from? He made it up. So instead of enforcing the law, he's telling 11 million people how to avoid obeying the law."

Napolitano said Congress is fed up with presidents taking action without the legislative branch. He said the charge this week from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers may cause lawmakers to demand more control.

"The dramatic change on enough is enough with the spying will cause the Congress, I believe, to begin to take back power it has been ceding to presidents since the New Deal," he said.
War Whore

U.S. drone strike kills 4 in Yemen

A US drone strike in northeast Yemen has killed four suspected Al-Qaeda members, a tribal source said on Tuesday.

Two missiles struck two vehicles late Monday in the Wadi Abida area, east of Sanaa, killing the occupants "who were all Al-Qaeda members," the source said.

Obad Mubarak al-Shabwani and Jaafar al-Shabwani, "both local chiefs of Al-Qaeda," were among the passengers, he said.

The United States military operates all drones flying over Yemen in support of Sanaa's campaign against Al-Qaeda and has killed dozens of militants in a sharply intensified campaign in the past year.

Drone strikes have triggered criticism from rights activists, who say they have claimed the lives of many innocent civilians.
Star of David

Obama throws another half billion dollars towards Israel's missile defense program

© Nati Shohat/Flash90
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspect an Iron Dome missile defense battery at Ben Gurion Airport on March 20, 2013.
Defense Department says agreement signed last week brings 'meaningful co-production opportunities' for US industry

The United States and Israel signed an agreement last week to "continue support of the production of the Iron Dome weapon system," according to a statement over the weekend from the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense.

"The Iron Dome system is capable of intercepting and destroying short-range rockets, and mortar and artillery shells, and is an invaluable component of Israeli missile defense," the statement reads. "During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, Iron Dome was credited with saving countless Israeli lives, and was called a 'game-changer' by many Israeli policy-makers."

The agreement, concluded last Wednesday, "ensures continued US funding for procurement of Iron Dome systems and interceptors, and provides for significant co-production opportunities for US industry. Under the terms of the agreement, $429 million will be transferred immediately to Israel to support Iron Dome procurement."

The statement cites the "strategic value" of the agreement for both Israel and the US. "Israel will obtain valuable resources to contribute to its defense and US industry will receive meaningful co-production opportunities for Iron Dome components," it reads.
Eye 2

Using some fictional pretext, Israeli airstrike kills 3 Palestinians in southern Gaza

© MaanImages/File
An Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, an official said.

Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that three Palestinian resistance fighters were killed by the airstrike in southeast Khan Younis near the Sufa crossing.

Al-Qidra identified the victims as Ismail Abu Judah, 23, Shahir Abu Shanab, 24, and 33-year-old Abd al-Shafi Muammar.

The bodies were taken to the European Hospital in Khan Younis, al-Qidra said.

Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, said in a statement that the victims were militants affiliated to the group.

U.S.-funded jihadists execute at least 22 people in Syria

© REUTERS/Hamid Khatib
Free Syrian Army fighters stand at a former base used by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), after the ISIL withdrew from the town of Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border, March 11, 2014.
Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant "executed" at least 22 people, including 12 rebels, in the north of the country Tuesday, a monitoring group said.

"ISIL members executed at least 22 persons with firearms or knives, after taking control of Shuyukh outside the town of Jarabulus" in Aleppoprovince, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

Among those killed were "at least 12 armed rebels," he said.

ISIL seized Jarabulus, near the northern border with Turkey, from the rebels last month.

At the beginning of January, a number of rebel groups joined an offensive against ISIL, accusing it of atrocities against people from their own ranks and among civilians.

At least 3,300 persons have been killed in that fighting, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on activists and other sources inside Syria.

ISIL is accused of kidnapping scores of people, among them rival rebels, activists, foreign journalists and humanitarian workers.

14 people killed by death squads U.S. left behind in Iraq

Up to 14 people were killed and 14 others wounded in shootings and bombings, mainly targeting security forces, in Iraq on Tuesday, police said.

In Iraq's western province of Anbar, four soldiers were killed and three others wounded when a land mine struck their patrol in Amriyat al-Fallujah area, near the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In a separate incident, Commander of the Army's 10th Division Ali al-Hashimi was wounded in his foot in a clash with gunmen near the town of Khaldiyah, some 80 km west of Baghdad, the source said.

Also in the province, a sticky bomb attached to a military vehicle exploded and killed an intelligence officer on a main road in south of Fallujah, the source added.

Anbar province has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi in late December last year.

Russia says intercepted US drone over Crimea: arms group

© AFP Photo/John Moore
A US predator drone takes off for a surveillance flight near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013
A United States surveillance drone has been intercepted above the Ukranian region of Crimea, a Russian state arms and technology group said Friday.

"The drone was flying at about 4,000 metres (12,000 feet) and was virtually invisible from the ground. It was possible to break the link with US operators with complex radio-electronic" technology, said Rostec in a statement.

The drone fell "almost intact into the hands of self-defence forces" added Rostec, which said it had manufactured the equipment used to down the aircraft, but did not specify who was operating it.

Poll: Vladimir Putin is stronger than President Obama (and John Kerry)‏

Maybe it is the photos of him posing shirtless on horseback, or his military push into Ukraine, but Americans in a new poll believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is a much stronger leader than President Obama.

A YouGov/Economist survey of 1,000 adults interviewed March 8-10 found that 78 percent view Putin as somewhat to very strong leader. Just 45 percent see Obama the same way. Worse, more Americans, 55 percent, view Obama as a weak leader.

The poll comes as the president is struggling with a response to Putin's push into Ukraine and expectations that Crimea will break off and join Russia.

Pusillanimous John Kerry: Russia has until Monday to reverse course in Ukraine

John Kerry
© AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Secretary of State John Kerry pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, before the House Appropriations subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Budget hearing.
Secretary of State John Kerry warned of serious repercussions for Russia on Monday if last-ditch talks over the weekend to resolve the crisis in Ukraine failed to persuade Moscow to soften its stance.

Kerry will travel to London for a Friday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of a Sunday referendum vote in the Crimea region to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

Comment: Every time this guy opens his mouth a little piece of the truth is murdered in broad daylight. When a man who belongs in a padded cell is Secretary of State, you know politics has become a total freak show.