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Pakistan's new premier calls for drone strike halt

Nawaz sharif election
© Arshad Arbab/European Pressphoto Agency
Supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz danced in Peshawar as its leader, Nawaz Sharif, was elected prime minister.
Nawaz Sharif took office as Pakistan's prime minister for an unparalleled third time on Wednesday, vowing to tackle the country's crippling electricity crisis and issuing an urgent call for the end of American drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

"The chapter of daily drone attacks should stop," a grave-faced Mr. Sharif told the packed lower house of Parliament, where he won a comfortable majority of votes to become prime minister. "We respect the sovereignty of other countries, but others should also respect our sovereignty."

Those comments resonated with many Pakistanis who view the C.I.A. missile strikes as a troubling symbol of American aggression - even if they occasionally kill Pakistan's own enemies, like the country's deputy Taliban leader, Wali ur-Rehman, who died in an attack last week.

Comment: This little sample shows who is killed by the US drones in Pakistan, and it's mostly unarmed citizens, including children:

Another Day in the Empire: US drone kills 8 in Pakistan
US drone strike kills 25 in Pakistan
U.S. terror drone attack kills 18 in NW Pakistan
US drone attacks leave 21 dead in NW Pakistan in 48 hours
Making the world safe for corporate greed: American droneattacks kill 12 in Pakistan
US drone strike kills 23 in Pakistan
Waging Peace: Ten killed by US drone strike in Pakistan


Digital Blackwater rules

© The Guardian
The judgment of Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsberg is definitive; "There has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material". And that includes the release of the Pentagon Papers themselves. Here is the 12-minute video by The Guardian where Snowden details his motives.

By now, everything swirling around the US National Security Agency (NSA) points to a black box in a black hole. The black box is the NSA headquarters itself in Fort Meade, Maryland. The black hole is an area that would include the suburbs of Virginia's Fairfax County near the CIA but mostly the intersection of the Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32.

There one finds a business park a mile away from the NSA which Michael Hayden, a former NSA director (1999-2005) told Salon's Tim Shorrock is "the largest concentration of cyber power on the planet". [1] Hayden coined it "Digital Blackwater".

Here is a decent round up of key questions still not answered about the black hole. But when it comes to how a 29-year old IT wizard with little formal education has been able to access a batch of ultra-sensitive secrets of the US intelligence-national security complex, that's a no-brainer; it's all about the gung-ho privatization of spying - referred to by a mountain of euphemisms of the "contractor reliance" kind. In fact the bulk of the hardware and software used by the dizzying network of 16 US intelligence agencies is privatized.


70 die in day of carnage in Iraq


Iraqis gather at the site of a car bombing in Baghdad’s Sadr City.
A wave of attacks has killed seventy people and injured dozens across Iraq after several days of relative calm.

No group has claimed responsibility for Monday's attacks, but officials say the main suspects are militants linked to al-Qaeda.

A triple bombing at a vegetable market in the town of Judaida al-Shat in Diyala province left at least 13 people dead and injured 50 people.

"I was selling watermelon and suddenly I heard a powerful blast at the entrance of the market," local farmer Hassan Hadi said.

"I fled from dust and smoke when a second blast turned the place into hell," he added.

On Monday evening, at least 29 people died and 80 were injured in a series of car bomb attacks targeting army and police checkpoints in Mosul.


President Obama's dragnet

liar in chief

A charismatic voice perhaps - but a psychopath nonetheless!

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive - whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency's phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism - especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Bizarro Earth

Detroit police's simulated purse snatching goes awry


Police headquarters in downtown Detroit
An FBI agent almost shot a Detroit cop on Wednesday at a gas station while filling up. It wasn't the agent or the cop's fault. It was the cop's bosses, who came up with the lame brain idea to simulate a purse snatching and then invite a TV crew to film your reaction Detroit. The immediate supervisor of these cops had no idea this was happening until they called him.

"The event takes place. The officer takes the purse, runs around the gas station. As he's running, an off-duty FBI agent is pumping gas. He witnesses the whole thing. He gives chase. He pulls his weapon, and as he turns the corner around the gas station, he's stopped by another officer, who identifies herself as a police officer and don't shoot, don't shoot, this is a scenario," said Inspector Shawn Gargalino with the Detroit Police Department.

That is the same description of events we got from four other ranking law enforcement officials, including Lieutenant Chuck Flannagan, a 28-year veteran of DPD.

"It's a tragedy waiting to happen. In fact, I understand an FBI agent did pull a weapon because he didn't believe it was a staged, and some officers had to run forward to prevent him from possibly shooting an officer. We have enough robberies at gas stations that most people aren't going to assume it's a mock robbery," he said.

Eye 1

Meet the contractors analyzing your private data

© Reuters/Jason Reed
Private companies are getting rich probing your personal information for the government. Call it Digital Blackwater

Amid the torrent of stories about the shocking new revelations about the National Security Agency, few have bothered to ask a central question. Who's actually doing the work of analyzing all the data, metadata and personal information pouring into the agency from Verizon and nine key Internet service providers for its ever-expanding surveillance of American citizens?

Well, on Sunday we got part of the answer: Booz Allen Hamilton. In a stunning development in the NSA saga, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald revealed that the source for his blockbuster stories on the NSA is Edward Snowden, "a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton." Snowden, it turns out, has been working at NSA for the last four years as a contract employee, including stints for Booz and the computer-services firm Dell.

The revelation is not that surprising. With about 70 percent of our national intelligence budgets being spent on the private sector - a discovery I made in 2007 and first reported in Salon - contractors have become essential to the spying and surveillance operations of the NSA.

From Narus, the Israeli-born Boeing subsidiary that makes NSA's high-speed interception software, to CSC, the "systems integrator" that runs NSA's internal IT system, defense and intelligence, contractors are making millions of dollars selling technology and services that help the world's largest surveillance system spy on you. If the 70 percent figure is applied to the NSA's estimated budget of $8 billion a year (the largest in the intelligence community), NSA contracting could reach as high as $6 billion every year.

But it's probably much more than that.

Eye 1

Officials: NSA mistakenly intercepted emails, phone calls of innocent Americans

Insisting that attempts at "100 percent security" will always come with inconveniences, President Barack Obama said "we're going to have to make some choices as a society." NBC's Pete Williams reports.

The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called "a sensitive intelligence collection program" after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

Ret. Adm. Dennis Blair, who served as President Obama's DNI in 2009 and 2010, told NBC News that, in one instance in 2009, analysts entered a phone number into agency computers and "put one digit wrong," and mined a large volume of information about Americans with no connection to terror. The matter was reported to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose judges required that all the data be destroyed, he said.

Another former senior official, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Blair's recollection and said the incident created serious problems for the Justice Department, which represents the NSA before the federal judges on the secret court.


The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning

© AP/Patrick Semansky
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse at Fort Meade, Md., on Wednesday after the third day of his court-martial.
The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government's unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge's refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would "eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees." And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

War Whore

Who benefits from U.S. wars?

The latest objective estimate for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Prominent American economist Joseph E. Stiglitz put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion dollars in 2008. In September 2010 he said that our estimate "was if anything too low." The United States is to spend more than $6 billion in Iraq in 2012 even though its forces are to withdraw from the country by the end of this year.

Comment: No wonder PressTV, Iran's international news channel, is prevented from broadcasting in the US and EU.

Snakes in Suits

House rebukes Obama, challenges deportation policy

© Gregory Bull
Men recently deported from Arizona wait in line to be registered with Mexican authorities at the border in Nogales, Mexico, on April 28, 2010
The House voted Thursday to overturn all of President Obama's non-deportation policies, in a vote freighted with meaning as Congress warily eyes a broader immigration debate later over the next few months.

It was one of several rebukes the House issued to Mr. Obama's immigration policies as the chamber debates a homeland security funding bill. The House also voted to preserve a program that lets local police help enforce immigration laws, rejecting the president's effort to defund it.

The votes signal that the House will continue to be a major hurdle for Mr. Obama, who wants to see Congress pass a bill legalizing the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country. The deportation policy vote shows House lawmakers - and Republicans in particular - are still focused on enforcement.

The 224-201 vote broke chiefly along party lines and would undo what Republicans refer to as Mr. Obama's administrative "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.