Thursday, October 16, 2014

Out of Gas

A story in the New York Times revealed that American soldiers found rotting, rusting, and forgotten chemical weapons shells that the U.S. had sold to Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran in the 1980′s.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.

Then, during the long occupation, American troops began encountering old chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs. Typically 155-millimeter artillery shells or 122-millimeter rockets, they were remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

All had been manufactured before 1991, participants said. Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin. Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them.

In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.

No, wingnuts, this does not prove that President Bush was right about WMD’s all along.  It’s roughly the same as finding an old Soviet warhead from World War II buried in a backyard in Warsaw and claiming that Mikhail Gorbachev was plotting to invade Poland.

The real crime is that the Pentagon for whatever reason decided not to train their soldiers on how to deal with the old ordnance when they encountered them, and covered up the injuries when they did.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Short Takes

Israel: Security forces from Israel fought with Palestinian citizens after a revenge killing of a Palestinian teen.

Homeland Security raised the alert level at several airports overseas that have direct flights to the U.S.

The Federal Privacy Board said the N.S.A. program to monitor foreigners is legal.

Boston Pops moving up their 4th of July show to tonight.

Tropical Update: TS Arthur will be a hurricane by this afternoon.

The Tigers swept the A’s 9-3.  Still on top of the division.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Annals of Asshattery

Bush-administration CIA director Michael Hayden said Sunday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was getting “emotional” about the Senate Intelligence Committee report that details the tactics they used to try to wring intelligence out of prisoners.

Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis [sic] Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

Wallace — who is far from a sympathizer for Senator Feinstein and her party — responded incredulously to the Director’s assertion that Sen. Feinstein’s emotions drove her to want a public report on the U.S.’s potential use of torture. “Forgive me because you and I both know Senator Feinstein,” Wallace said. “I have the highest regard for her. You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?”

Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.

What a steaming pile.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Just For Fun

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A’s methods is leaking out.  Included in the report is the rather obvious conclusion that they used “enhanced” interrogation methods to get information out of suspects.  In other words, they tortured people.  The results were insignificant, but they tried to make it sound as if they were getting them to sing like canaries.  Paul Waldman at the American Prospect:

In the case of the CIA (and the Bush administration), they had a moral sunk cost in the torture program. They had made an extraordinary ethical choice, to make torture the official policy of the United States (and renaming it “enhanced interrogation” wasn’t going to fool anyone, not even themselves). Once that decision was made and the torture began, it had to be effective, and not just effective but fantastically effective, in order to justify the moral compromise they had made. When the torture program failed to produce the results they hoped for, they could have said, “This stuff isn’t working; let’s focus on what does.” But by then they couldn’t retreat; the only hope of balancing the moral scales was to go forward. They were probably hoping that if they just kept on torturing, eventually it would produce something helpful and the whole program could be justified. But in the meantime, they’d try to fool people into thinking it was working splendidly…

Of course they exaggerated about the results.  They had to.  Going down the path of torture had to yield something or else what’s the point of waterboarding except for the fun of it?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Short Takes

Something’s Afloat — Australia’s prime minister says satellite images may have found pieces from Malaysia MH 370.

Bugging Out — The Ukraine military is getting out of Crimea.

The Fed is planning to curtail its economic stimulus campaign.

The Obama administration is making climate change data available to help communities deal with it.

Toyota settles federal inquiry into auto defects for $1.2 billion.

Half of Syria’s chemical weapons have been removed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Short Takes

President Obama calls off meeting with Putin.

Jury deliberates for third day in the Whitey Bulger case.

Yemen threat makes Gitmo plans dicey.

Teen graffiti artist dies after being tasered by Miami Beach cops.

JP Morgan faces criminal and civil charges.

Three hurt, hundreds evacuated in wildfire in Southern California.

Three winners in $448 million Powerball.

The Tigers beat the Indians 6-5 in 14.  The streak is at 11.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Short Takes

N.S.A. director says “dozens” of attacks thwarted.

C.I.A. Deputy Director Michael Morell resigns.

Turkish P.M. orders an end to riots in 24 hours.

Wildfires still burn along the Front Range in Colorado.

Severe weather moves across the country and hits the East Coast.

R.I.P. Miller Barber, 82, golf champion.

The Tigers lost in 10 to K.C. 3-2.  (Valverde blew the save.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nobody Knows Your Name

Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, secrecy takes over at Gitmo:

When the war court reconvenes this week, pretrial hearings in the case of an alleged al-Qaida bomber will be tackling a government motion that’s so secret the public can’t know its name.

It’s listed as the 92nd court filing in the death-penalty case against a Saudi man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded by CIA agents.

And in place of its name, the Pentagon has stamped “classified” in red.

It’s not the first classified motion in the case against the 48-year-old former millionaire from Mecca accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed in the attack, and the prosecutor proposes to execute al-Nashiri, if he’s convicted.

Also on the docket for discussion this week is a classified defense motion that asks the Army judge to order the government to reveal information “related to the arrest, detention and interrogation” of al-Nashiri. By the time he got to Guantanamo in 2006, according to declassified investigations, CIA agents had held him at secret overseas prisons for four years during which, according to declassified accounts, he was waterboarded and interrogated at the point of a revving power drill and racked pistol.

But what makes the no-name government motion so intriguing is that those who’ve read it can’t say what it’s about, and those who haven’t don’t have a clue. Not even the accused, who, unless the judge rules for the defense, is not allowed to get an unclassified explanation of it – and cannot sit in on the court session when it’s argued in secret.

The motion was so secret that al-Nashiri’s Indianapolis-based defense attorney said members of the defense team would not characterize it over the phone. “Literally, I had to fly to Washington, D.C., to read it,” said attorney Rick Kammen of Indianapolis, a career death-penalty defender whom the Pentagon pays to represent al-Nashiri.

Mr. Kafka, your table is ready.

I seriously think that the only reason Congress hasn’t let President Obama close Gitmo isn’t because they’re worried about putting terrorists in the super-max prison in Colorado where they’ll never see more daylight than if they were in a box in the bottom of a well.  It’s because there’s a bunch of people in Congress and across this country who think the Constitutional protections afforded to the accused is a whole lot of left-wing terrorist-hugging namby-pamby painty-waist pablum that only serves to spread love, peace and granola and put Real Americans in harm’s way, amirite?

Sheesh.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This Is A Recording

The New York Times is reporting that the NSA got a secret court order to get all of Verizon’s call records for a three-month period.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The order does not apply to the content of the communications.

Verizon Business Network Services is one of the nation’s largest telecommunications and Internet providers for corporations. It is not clear whether similar orders have gone to other parts of Verizon, like its residential or cellphone services, or to other telecommunications carriers. The order prohibits its recipient from discussing its existence, and representatives of both Verizon and AT&T declined to comment Wednesday evening.

The four-page order was disclosed Wednesday evening by the newspaper The Guardian. Obama administration officials at the F.B.I. and the White House also declined to comment on it Wednesday evening, but did not deny the report, and a person familiar with the order confirmed its authenticity. “We will respond as soon as we can,” said Marci Green Miller, a National Security Agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

As the article points out, these are not wiretaps, and the scope of the order is so massive that it’s hard to imagine that they are looking for anything more than patterns.  But it makes you wonder what they think they’re going to find when sifting through the virtual mountain of information.

This is being done under the authority of the PATRIOT Act, so from a political point of view, it’s going to be interesting to see who raises a stink about this from the GOP or Fox News.  After all, they were all in favor of this kind of thing when it was first whooped through Congress.  But it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democratic or a Republican administration: this huge scooping up of information had better have a really good reason behind it.

PS: Al Gore tweeted that the order was “obscenely outrageous,” thereby assuring its approval by the Orcosphere.