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Priorities

Barack Obama’s are screwed.

Bradley Manning was sentenced today; she got 35 years for the release of classified documents.  In way that’s cheering.  The Prosecution charged her with offenses which could have ended up with her in prison* for the rest of his life.  That charge was not sustained by the judge (though I think it ought never have been entertained by her; that it was is disturbing), and they asked for 60 years on the charges for which convictions were handed down.

In one regard, she’s lucky. If she moves to someplace like Michigan when the sentence expires she will get most of his civil rights restored, Florida, not so much  The Penal Barracks have pretty good policies regarding parole/time off for good behavior.  With the (inadequate**) amount of credit for time served, she is eligible for parole in about 10 years.  The gov’t is likely to oppose her release.  Hard call what the board will decide.  I don’t think she will be there for the entire 31 years, and change, remaining in her sentence.

On the one hand this is a minor loss to the gov’t/Obama adminstration.  they wanted to put her away for life, “pour encourager les autres“.  Certainly the people baying for other people involved with leaks in the public interest to be killed outright are working to make it more dangerous to try and reveal secret gov’t policies.  And the harassment of people who are near to them is right up there with other totalitarian ideas of guilt by association, and collective punishment.§

So that’s one priority.  Someone who released information to inform the public of what the gov’t was doing in their name, is being locked up.  Charged with “aiding the enemy” because (after the press refused to look at the documents) she went to Wikileaks, which put it on the Web where “bad guys” could see it.  That’s a pretty fucked up interpretation of the law.  Speak out in a public forum = aiding the enemy.

Flip side: We have torturers among us. Some have been sanctioned.  Graner and Englund went to jail.  Gen. Karpinski was relieved of command.  Graner, was sentenced to 10 years.  He’s already out on parole.  On Christmas, 2014, his sentence ends. He was the last of those convicted to be released, which is fitting because his 10 year sentence was the harshest punishment handed down.   For all the abuses, and torture, which took place at Abu Ghraib, only 10 people were charged, and only nine convicted of anything.  No one was charged with torture, nor any form of homicide; though some of the prisoners in their custody died.

The people who wrote, and approved the Bybee Memos suffered not a single harm (one of them, John Yoo, is teaching law at Berkeley).  The president who asked for those memos… no one really cares.  The vice president who defends them still, no one really cares. The general who was brought in to “Gitmo-ize Abu Ghraib, no one really cares.  War Crimes, committed for years, and we “are looking forward”.  Which is bullshit.  One can’t look forward to find justice.  Justice means looking back and examining what was done in the past.

No, this is a case of priorities.  Obama, Pelosi, Reid, none of them give a shit about torture.  It’s a shame that it happened.  It will be a shame if we find out it’s still happening; but the bigger problem is the people who tell us what’s going on; the sort of person who would reveal to the world that our government is committing crimes; even when those crimes are likely to undermine the system which is committing them.  Torture is bad.  It’s arguable that spying on the citizenry is worse; not least because it makes it easier to cover up things like torture.  Edward Snowden fled the US to China, and then to Russia.  There may have been (probably was) a cynical attempt to exploit some realpolitik, and he was counting on one of them to want more to find out what he had than to give him up (and/or that what he had was going to make them upset enough with the US to think sticking a finger in our eye was a useful thing).

Think about that; he decided the safest course of action was to defect to China, because he knew (from watching Bradley Manning’s treatment; and perhaps the people saying Tsarnaev ought to be tried as, “an enemy combatant”, never mind that he’s a US citizen, and the crime he committed took place in the US), that being a whistleblower means becoming a high-value target for the government: moreso than it was under Bush fils.

It’s a scary thing that torturing people to death can get you a sentence of two monthsø Ψ but leaking documents will be pursued to the full extent the law may allow.

Obama’s priorities are fucked up.

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*I am not going into the question of Manning’s gender; so far he has not asked for the use of other pronouns, so I am using those which seem to be comfortable for him (not that I think he will ever see this).  If that changes, I will edit this post to reflect it. (Edit:  As of now Manning has said she is a woman, and so wishes to be referred to with female pronouns/referents.  I made some changes to reflect that).

Being at Ft. Leavenworth is almost certainly a large step up from being in a non-military prison.  There is, so I have heard, a certain sense of not-quite camaraderie which comes of having shared a common ethos; and the regimentation is, while tedious (the amount of outside access is quite limited; no internet, no email, and books/magazines have to be deemed acceptable; mail is read, etc.  But the level of interpersonal violence is a lot less. (Edit:  I don’t know what policies/procedures are in place at Ft. Leavenworth to cope with Manning’s status as a transgendered female; so some of these speculations are now less clear to me.

**In that the DoD tortured her, and kept her in cruel and unusual conditions.

§It’s not that I think the US Gov’t wouldn’t do some of that; just that they’d use the FBI, and an NSA, so that the press in question would be (in theory) unable to talk about it.  If they thought they could be that high-handed, they would.

ø Confession time:  I know many of the people involved in the DIlawar Case.  Including all the Intel People who were convicted.  I served with them in Iraq, before some of them went on to Abu Ghraib.

ΨThe punishment options were open-ended.  I don’t know what the prosecution asked for but this is the text of the most serious of the three charges she faced.

 928. Art. 128. Assault

(a) Any person subject to this chapter who attempts or offers with unlawful force or violence to do bodily harm to another person, whether or not the attempt or offer is consummated, is guilty of assault and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. (b) Any person subject to this chapter who-

(1) commits an assault with a dangerous weapon or other means or force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm; or (2) commits an assault and intentionally inflicts grievous bodily harm with or without a weapon; is guilty of aggravated assault and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.


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Obama is playing fast and loose with the truth

To be more blunt about it, he’s lying.  He gave an interview, and said the NSA programs (you know, the ones where they hoover up all our metadata, and all our browsing habits) were “transparent”.

Obama: So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule. There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did any of the — did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that —

Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.

Barack Obama: Well, let me — let me finish, because I don’t. So, what happens is that the FBI — if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone — it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.

Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?

Barack Obama: The — because — the — first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.

Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?

Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court….

Note that he didn’t answer Rose.  He dodged, told how the Court is supposed to work, but not if it’s actually denied a single request*

He’s also glossing the information in the Metadata.  If all it is is useless numbers, then it’s a pointless waste of time.  The only way the data can be used, if if at least one end of the number pair has a name.  So that’s one lie.

Two, “the number of requests are surprisingly small,”**.  That’s a response to requests to the FISC (the “FISA Court”).  There was a shift in that response, which (to me) seems telling.  The FISC gets a lot more than just, “can we unlock this single pair of numbers” requests.  Since Obama was bobbing and weaving, I don’t think he was actually focusing his attention on this narrow subset.  That’s one of the things you learn when doing interrogations; people who have things to hide, are thinking about them.  Art Linkletter used to have a show, “Kids say the darndest things”.  One of his stock questions (so stock you’d think it would have stopped working) was to ask at least one kid a week, “What did your parents tell you not to say”.  I think Obama is suffering from that.  He doesn’t want to talk about the scope of the NSA’s actually snooping into the lives of Americans; and it’s affecting his tone.  His language is defensive.

That makes me think this isn’t the worst of it.

But back to that statement about FISC:  What happens when a request comes to the FISC?

Director Keith Alexander was asked to explain the process that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts go through before approving a request to access the content of those communications. Alexander said that the courts work with the NSA to make sure that they are not violating American civil rights and those courts do not “rubber stamp” surveillance requests…

He said that he has been impressed with the FISA court’s diligence, “every time we make a mistake, how they work with us to make sure it is done correctly – to protect our civil liberties and privacy and go through the court process.”

Got that… if they fuck up the request, the Court tells them how to word it so they can do it.  Maybe I’m being too harsh,  maybe they tell them the warrant is overbroad, and they can’t have all the data they are asking for,  but 1: If that’s the case HOW MUCH WERE THEY AFTER BEFORE?, and 2: I can’t know because the proceedings of that court aren’t transparent.  They are classified.  The Judges all have Top Secret Clearances, and the people on whom the warrants are served are enjoined from discussing it.

This the the same law the FBI used to demand the names, and durations, of every person who checked into any hotel in Las Vegas, for a several month period.

Steve Doocey is being hypocrite, in a big way, in his horror at all of this.  “Doocey countered that the Obama administration has veered into “illegal” territory.” Never mind that the law Obama is using was written to deal with the fact that Bush straight up admitted he was breaking the law, and had no intention of stopping.

Obama’s defense of all this, “trust is, we won’t break the law”.  He’s not quite as bad as Cheney, who said:

WALLACE: So what right do you think the American people have to know what government is doing?

CHENEY: Well, they get to vote for senior officials, like the President of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress. And you have to have some trust in them.

Sorry, but I don’t get to vote on who gets to chair what House Committee, I sure as hell don’t get to vote on who the head of the NSA is, so he’s being more than a tad deceptive with that.  Then again, this is the guy who sent me to war on the assurance that his intel folks (remember, he had a parallel track of “reliable” intel, not like the stuff the CIA was giving them about al Qaeda wanting to commit a mass-casualty attack on the US) that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Trust us, he says; this is the guy who was VP to Bush fils, the one who was actively breaking the law.  He also says that Snowden is a traitor, who “damaged Natinal Security.  This is the same fuckmuppet who outed Valerie Plame; and burned an entire network of people who would have been able to tell us about folks who were actually managing to get those WMD he was pretending to be so concerned about when he could start a war (and make a few hundred million dollars in personal profit on the deal: a lot easier than selling Cardboard Shoes to the Union Army).

 

 

 

*to the best of my knowledge, the answer is No, they have not denied a single request.

** Apple and Facebook each said it was between 9-10,000 requests last year.  What isn’t in that is the scope of those 18-20,000 requests they made of just those two companies.