Saturday, August 10, 2013

The deflation of Barack

Friday, the weekend at last.  My mom passed over something from Barry Grey and Andre Damon's piece for WSWS:

Obama personifies the antagonism between the entire political setup and the basic needs of the vast majority of the population. He won the election in 2008 by presenting himself as a progressive alternative to the hated administration of George W. Bush and its policies of war, social reaction and attacks on democratic rights. No sooner was he in office when he then began to repudiate his campaign promises.
Obama has intensified the right-wing policies of Bush: continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and launching new ones in Libya and Syria, deepening the attacks on democratic rights, and escalating the assault on the living standards of the working class. His rejection of any federal aid to Detroit signifies his administration’s support for the bankruptcy of Detroit to be used as a model for slashing the pensions of workers all over the country.
Obama’s reelection—against a multi-millionaire who made his fortune as a Wall Street asset-stripper—reflected the collapse of the popular illusions that helped propel him to power four years earlier. Voter turnout in 2012 fell by 10 million people from 2008. Obama’s own vote fell sharply, making him the first president in more than 60 years to be reelected with fewer votes in his second term than in his first.

I remember C.I. pointing this out in real time and my planning to write about that back then, but I never did.  But I think that goes to the reality about Barack.  He's not that popular.  I think it is so telling that he is the first president in 60 years to be re-elected with fewer votes.

It goes to the fact that he's a liar who has duped people.  In four years, at least 10 million people caught on and decided not to even bother to vote.

And that was before we learned about the illegal spying.  He really is a liar and a loser.

And I want to second C.I.'s point: It is not his job, role or function to comment on who is or is not a patriot.  He needs to shut his damn mouth.

I'm really offended that anyone holding the post would publicly declare any citizen to not be a patriot.

He really is trash.  Probably misses the days when he'd sit on step-daddy's lap and let himself be fondled.  Get treatment for your issues, Barack, and stop inflicting them on others.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, August 9, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis continue to protest, Tim Arango offers an analysis of the violence, a report on the prison breaks is released, Barack holds a (brief) press conference on spying, NBC News struggles with the English language, a judge declines to release US political prisoner Lynne Stewart and more.

"No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," huffed a snippy and petulant Barack Obama this afternoon as he was finally forced to hold a (brief) press conference.  "As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks.  My preference -- and I think the American people's preference would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws."

Oh, poor, little pink thong-clad president, pantsed in front of the whole world, caught by surprise by that mean bully Ed Snowden and that trickey NSA!

Oh, wait, that's not how it happened at all but don't expect the cowardly press to point out that fact -- they're too busy cleaning up Barack's words in "No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot."

Barack did call for a review . . . in his first term as president.  It was done.  He was pleased with the results.  And thought he could continue to keep the results and the illegal spying from the knowledge of the American people.  As James Bamford notes in "They Know Much More Than You Think" (current issue of The New York Review of Books):

With the arrival of the Obama administration, the NSA’s powers continued to expand at the same time that administration officials and the NSA continued to deceive the American public on the extent of the spying. In addition to the denial I have mentioned by James Clapper, General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, also blatantly denied that his agency was keeping records on millions of Americans. In March 2012, Wired magazine published a cover story I wrote on the new one-million-square-foot NSA data center being built in Bluffdale, Utah. In the article, I interviewed William Binney, a former high-ranking NSA official who was largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. He quit the agency in 2001 in protest after he saw the system designed mainly for intelligence about foreign threats turned inward on the American public. In the interview, he told how the agency was tapping into the country’s communications and Internet networks. He revealed that it also was secretly obtaining warrantless access to billions of phone records of Americans, including those of both AT&T and Verizon. “They’re storing everything they gather,” he said.
In the months afterward, General Alexander repeatedly denied Binney’s charges. “No…we don’t hold data on US citizens,” he told Fox News, and at an Aspen Institute conference he said, “To think we’re collecting on every US person…that would be against the law.” He added, “The fact is we’re a foreign intelligence agency.”
But the documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.
Snowden’s documents and statements add greatly to an understanding of just how the NSA goes about conducting its eavesdropping and data-mining programs, and just how deceptive the NSA and the Obama administration have been in describing the agency’s activities to the American public.

And the deceptions continued today.  Barack was sworn in for his second term back in January.  Throughout his first term, the liar refused to inform the American people what was happening.

As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks.  My preference -- and I think the American people's preference would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws.

He didn't go public in his first term and wouldn't have in his second if not for the brave actions of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  The examination would not have included the American people were it not for Snowden.

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald broke many of the recent spying stories and he Tweets:

  1. Obama: we were right on the verge of launching a really great, open debate on secret surveillance when Snowden went & did this

And before we go further, let's make one thing real damn clear: No one gave Barack the right to rule on who is or who is not a patriot.  With his education in Indonesia, I doubt he can name and explain many patriots in American history to begin with but he abuses his office when he starts issuing decrees on which living citizen is or is not a patriot and he needs to be told to shut his mouth.

Should Ed return to the US (of his own accord or due to rendition), he would then go on trial.  Barack's remarks are prejudicial and need to stop immediately.  He needs to shut his mouth.

But leaving aside the legal impact, no president is given the right to judge American citizens.  Barack, as usual, has overstepped the boundaries of the office and, as usual, it is out of gross ignorance of the American experience.  The next time someone who was schooled abroad for any length of time tries to run for the presidency, debates should be turned into civics test. It'll prevent someone trying to learn the job and learn about the US at the same time.

The president of the United States is a public servant and it is not his role or job to question or affirm the patriotism of any American citizen.  Shame on Barack Obama.

 Chuck Todd, Kelly O'Donnell and Carrie Dann (NBC News) note, "NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations have forced President Barack Obama’s hand, leading the president to announce new reforms of the government’s classified surveillance programs."

I'm confused.  Are Todd, O'Donnell and Dann ignorant of the English language?  Were they asleep during the conference?  Or do they just want to lie?  No reforms were announced.  Chuck Todd was confused about this in the press conference as well.

Chuck Todd:  Given that you just announced a whole bunch of reforms based on essentially the leaks that Edward Snowden made on all of these surveillance programs, is that change -- is your mindset changed about him? Is he now more a whistle-blower than he is a hacker, as you called him at one point, or somebody that shouldn't be filed charges? And should he be provided more protection? Is he a patriot? You just used those words. And then just to follow up on the personal -- I want to follow up on a personal --

President Barack Obama: Okay, I want to make sure -- everybody is asking one question it would be helpful.

Barack, ever the school marm. Christi Parsons and Ken Dilanian (Los Angeles Times) handle the reporting that Team NBC apparently can't:

Obama said he is considering proposals to restrict the NSA from secretly collecting virtually all Americans’ telephone calling records, the most controversial of the programs Snowden exposed.

He said he also is considering proposals to create a permanent staff of lawyers to advocate for the public, or to allow outside groups to file “amicus briefs,” in cases before the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has approved the telephone surveillance effort.

Proposals are not reforms.  Proposals are talk (Barack today: "We can take steps" -- frequently, they are empty talk.  Reforms are measures activated and implemented, not words of 'maybe.'  Can we get some ESL teachers for Team NBC?

Jason Ditz ( also grasps the difference between reforms and 'reforms:'

 Or at least what passes for reforms in his mind. Obama insisted that he is entirely “comfortable” with the surveillance system as currently constituted and expressed anger that “rather than a lawful process” the public debate was a result of leaks.
The president promised four “reforms,” three of which amounted to talking with other officials about how to sell the American public on the idea that everything is going as well as he thinks it is, and the fourth of which offering a minor tweak to FISA courts.

Matt Berman and Brian Resnick (National Journal) terms the talk "goals" and go further by observing, "Don't necessarily bet on serious, quick reform though. Task forces like the one laid out today don't have a huge history of recent success. Just look at Vice President Joe Biden's gun task force, announced by Obama following the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last year. "This won't be some Washington commission" that goes nowhere, Obama said in December. The task force issued recommendations in January. And aside from a failed Senate amendment, it has not resulted in any tangible change."

Team NBC wants to 'inform' that Ed Snowden's "been charged with theft of government property and two offenses under U.S. espionage law."  Where is the point made that the claim of "government property" includes American citizens' information and property?  In other words the original thieves are charging others with stealing.

Proposals, again, are not reforms.  They're words and apparently words used in an attempt to stop the current outrage from growing further.  How else to explain both the long overdue (but brief) press conference and this from Senator Dianne Feinstein's office today:

Washington -- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced the committee will hold a series of comprehensive hearings to examine intelligence data-collection programs:
“The Senate Intelligence Committee will undertake a major review of all intelligence data-collection programs involving Americans. This will be the primary order of business for the committee this fall and will be used to develop proposals to increase transparency and improve privacy protections for these vital national security programs.
“As I have said before, if changes are necessary, whenever feasible, we will make them. To the extent possible, I hope these hearings will better delineate the purpose and scope of these programs and increase the public’s confidence in their effectiveness.
“For example, I have suggested changes to the NSA call-records program (Section 215) requiring that the number of database queries and the number of warrants obtained by the FBI be released annually; the retention period of phone records be reduced from five years to two or three years; and the ideological diversity of the FISA court be increased, among other changes.”
“Section 215 continues to be mischaracterized as a domestic surveillance program. It is not. The program collects only phone numbers and the duration and times that calls are made. In fact, the database was queried fewer than 300 times last year and produced 12 reports to the FBI for further investigation, which could include warrants upon probable cause if the government sought content of communications.
“I am pleased the president shares the committee’s commitment to improving the public’s confidence with more transparency and more privacy protections. This is the right thing to do. I look forward to working with the intelligence community to achieve these goals.”

And will these be public hearings, Dianne?

Feinstein has no respect for the public or for an informed citizenry.  If you doubt it, she last presided over (as Chair of the Senate's Intelligence Committee) an open hearing on March 12.  Since then, she has chaired 30 closed hearings.

In DiFi's world, she knows best.  Which, of course, would explain her corrupt and unethical steering of contracts to her husband.  While the American people has grown increasingly outraged about the spying, Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Committee over US spying, has refused to hold one public hearing on the matter.  To call her derelict in her duty is actually to supply her with far more gravitas than her weak actions merit.

This afternoon, Shannon Young (Free Spech Radio News) reported:

 Texas-based encrypted email service provider Lavabit abruptly closed down Thursday afternoon. In a carefully worded statement, the company's owner and operator Ladar Levison wrote that the decision was between shutting down Lavabit or becoming "complicit in crimes against the American people." Levison added that, despite the constitutional right to free speech and making two separate requests, he has been legally prevented from sharing the experiences which led to the drastic decision. The wording of the statement suggests Levison is under a gag order which can accompany National Security Letters or sealed court orders.

Barack Obama: Bad for the economy, bad for business, bad for innovation.  That becomes ever more clear with every day.  Ted Samson (InfoWorld) observes:

Lavabit's move represents another black eye for the U.S.-based tech companies, many of which have struggled to protect their reputations in the wake of the revelations about the federal government's far-reaching surveillance programs. Foreign leaders have seized the opportunity to steer their citizens away from America-based services. Meanwhile, a recent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation predicted that U.S.-based cloud companies stand to lose as much as $35 billion over the next three years, due to customer wariness of Prism and other spying programs.
Levison himself wrote that he would "strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

John Constine (TechCrunch) adds:

The move has bolstered critics who are becoming increasingly vocal about how the U.S. government’s surveillance efforts are jeopardizing American technology businesses. They fear international customers may take their cloud business elsewhere in an attempt to avoid the NSA. Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, wrote that ”the U.S. government, in its rush to spy on everybody, may end up killing our most productive industry. Lavabit may just be the canary in the coal mine.”

If you missed the press conference, NPR has a transcript and audio of it up (they were the first with a transcript, by the way -- or the first with someone calling me about it -- others called later).  The (brief) press conference can best be termed Barack's Belive Me Because I'm Not Lying This Time.

This really comes across at the National Journal where they revisit Barack's recent remarks on the spying.

June 7th, Barack declares "when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."

June 18th, Barack declares the programs are "transparent.  That's why we set up the FISA court."

Were these statements accurate or truthful, the 'goals' and 'plans' Barack gave lip service to today would not have been needed.

KPFA broadcast the (brief) press conference live during Living Room and guest host Kevin Pina and guests Shahid Buttar (Bill of Rights Defense Committee) and Marcia Mitchell (author of The Spy Who Tried To Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion).  Buttar weighed in first on the press conference.

Shadid Buttar:  Well he's right that Edward Snowden accelerated a process.  I think to claim that it was going to happen already is a little bit of a farce.  The president had called for a thorough review of our nation's counter-terrorism policies but he certainly hadn't proposed, for instance, to add an adversarial process to the secret FISA court which he just promised.  Now that's a huge concession that he was not making previously.  The idea that we were going to impose long overdue restrictions on the Section 215 authority in the PATRIOT Act which he also just promised was not on the table before.  So this is a lot more than a mere acceleration.  The response to the Edward Snowden leaks and the grass roots firestorm from across the political spectrum has certainly shifted the ball in terms of what reforms are on the table.  And I do think the president papered over that.

Then Marcia Mitchell spoke and her remarks will transition us into Iraq.

Marcia Mitchell: The cases are quite similar and both are based on NSA illegal surveillance.  And I say illegal because I believe it is and I think that there is evidence -- abundant evidence -- that what they were doing was not in compliance with the law.  And I would just like to bring up here, the comment was made that people have lied to us about what NSA has done and about the law, you know, being in compliance with the law.  Looking back at the Katharine Gun case, just about that time, Michael Hayden, who was then head of the NSA, said that the lawfulness of the agency actions are done out of a heartfelt principle view the NSA operations had to be consistent with bedrock legal protections.  He said everything that the agency has done has been lawful but the fact is that it is not

Kevin Pina:  Now of course Katharine -- just to remind people, Marcia, Katharine was -- tell us who Katharine Gun was.

Marcia Mitchell:  Katharine Gun was a British secret service officer working for GCH2 which, as we know, is NSA's prime partner in the surveillance business.  And she was at her computer on the morning of January 31, 2003 during the debate about the legitimacy of invading Iraq.

Kevin Pina:  Now this is in the United Nations Security Council debate.

Marcia Mitchell:  Yes.  And she then saw on her computer from our NSA, from Frank Kosa, from the NSA inviting GCH2 to join in an illegal spy operation against members -- specific members of the UN Security Council -- those who had the swing vote as to whether or not we would have a new resolution to invade Iraq.  And those who were supporting the resolution, specifically Bush and Blair, were very passionate about getting this because they were concerned about Resolution 1441 which allowed inspections was not sufficient to allow invasion.

Kevin Pina:  So Katharine Gun basically blew the whistle on an NSA--

Marcia Mitchell:  Absolutely.

Kevin Pina (Con't): -- surveillance program on members of the United Nations Security Council who had the swing votes to approve  a US-sponsored resolution to invade Iraq.

Marcia Mitchell:  Right.  And the reason given in the message that Katharine read was to influence these voters to the US way of thinking.  And that message indicated that they would not only be doing not only the business offices of these UN security members but really their personal lives as well.  So what we were looking at really is high stakes blackmail.  This was a way to get information on these six men to get them to vote on behalf of the US-UK position.

Still on Iraq,  Newsbusters is a right-wing site, a media watch dog.  That doesn't make them bad or stupid and it's good to check and see how and where they are seeing bias.  They sent Scott Whitlock's piece today on Iraq which opens:

Over 1000 Iraqis were killed in July, victims of bombings and shootings marking that country's deadliest month since April of 2008. According to the Washington Times, Iraq is sliding into "chaos" with al Qaeda militants stoking terror. Yet, the three networks provided only scant coverage of the escalating death toll. From July 1 to July 31, the ABC, NBC and CBS evening and morning shows allowed only four minutes and 49 seconds to highlighting the unraveling situation.
In contrast, the networks in 2005 aggressively reported bad news and a pessimistic outlook for the country when a Republican was in the White House. Obviously, there's a difference between the two situations, given the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops. However, it seems as though NBC, CBS and ABC have effectively decided that the stability of Iraq is no longer a concern for George W. Bush's Democratic replacement.
[. . .]
 NBC managed two minutes and one second (or two segments). On the July 31 Nightly News, Brian Williams delivered the "sad headline," recounting, "July has now been the single deadliest month there since '08."
I'm not an apologist for the media.  First of all, as Newsbusters is pointing out, this should have been major news.  That said, NBC has an excuse for their coverage:  It didn't start on the 29th or the 30th or the 31st.
In the July 23rd snapshot, we noted Richard Engel's Iraq report for NBC's Today included:
Richard Engel: Iraq is now back in a civil war, US officials tell NBC News.  The hard fought US surge there, the benefits of American war to stop Iraq's civil war,  are being wiped out.  In car bombs, ambushes and gun fights  more than 250 killed in ten days.  Abu Ghraib prison notorious for American abuses and humiliations that United States [. . .] remains an open wound.  On Sunday, attackers free hundreds some say up to 500 inmates in a jail break include dozens of al Qaeda fighters.

In the July 24th snapshot, we noted the July 23rd Nightly News with Brian Williams included Richard Engel reporting on Iraq.

Richard Engel: Iraq is back in a civil war -- bad for Iraqis.  More than 600 killed just this month in bombings and Sunni versus Shi'ite vengeance.  And bad for Americans -- after all nearly 4,500 US troops died to bring stability to this strategic, oil rich country A trillion dollars was spent, hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed and deployed again.  But now Iraq is tearing itself apart again.  al Qaeda in Iraq won a big victory this weekend, perhaps enough to reconstitute itself.  They staged a major prison break, a major assault on Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.  Hundreds of militants were freed from their cells.  Iraqi officials today said at least 250.  al Qaeda in Iraq puts the number even higher at 500.  Militants stormed the prison, car bombs blasting open the gates, as suicide bombers rushed in and reinforcements fought off guards with mortars and assault rifles.  Nothing good seems to come from Abu Ghraib.  It was Saddam Hussein's dungeon.  After his fall, it held US detainees and became infamous for graphic images of prisoner abuse and humiliation.  And now a prison break releasing militants who will likely target the Iraqi government but who also have years of training fighting American troops. Richard Engel, NBC News.

Again, I do agree with Newsbusters that what's going on Iraq is a major news story and a clearly under-reported one; however, NBC News was covering Iraq and the mounting violence right before the time frame Newsbusters is reporting on.  I could be wrong, but I'm guessing Newsbusters is unfamiliar with those reports by Engel.  Many people were.  That's why, in addition to the snapshots, we noted Richard Engel's reporting in a morning post using the main point of his report as the title "US officials: 'Iraq is now back in a civil war'."

I can, and will, give allowances for that.  However, this, from Newsbusters' item, is just wrong:

Barack Obama is the President of the United States. His defenders may say that he didn't start the war and with troops gone, it's no longer his problem.
However, if this volatile and strategically located country was important before, it's still relevant now. As the Washington Times's Ashish Kumar Sen reported, the violence "could draw U.S. troops back into Iraq.

If Newsbusters wants to cover Iraq (and I'd love for them too), they need to be up to speed.  The troops aren't gone.  Not only were 15,500 troops moved to surrounding countries (largely Kuwait -- and the number is supposed to have dropped to 13,000 now according to a friend on the Senate Armed Services Committee), there were a number left in Iraq (not just the so-called 'trainers').  And let's drop  back to the April 30th Iraq snapshot so we're all on the same page:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Get it? Troops didn't all 'come home' and, last fall, Barack sent a Special-Ops unit into Iraq.  The MoU authorizes, among other things, joint-patrols (US and Iraqi troops patrolling Iraq together). Including that would only make Newsbusters argument stronger: This is news and it's only more so when you factor in US troops on the ground in Iraq and the agreement for joint-patrols.

[The Newsbusters e-mail also noted, in reply to yesterday's snapshot, that they had offered a fact check on Barack's Tonight Show remarks -- see here, here, here and here.  When I stated "we fact check Barack since the press seems unable to," I was (a) not aware of Newsbusters ongoing critique and (b) wouldn't include them -- or, on my side of the political spectrum, FAIR as 'the press' -- I see both as media watchdogs.]

Today on All Things Considered (NPR), Melissa Block spoke with the New York Times' Tim Arango about the increase in violence.  Excerpt.

Melissa Block: Help us understand first off who is doing the killing and who is being targeted?

Tim Arango:  Most of the attacks are attributed to al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgent groups and most of the targets are in Shia neighborhoods and Shia pilgrims and, you know, Shia citizens going about their daily business.  Of course, not all of the violence is attributed to al Qaeda.  There are many armed groups here including Shia, including mafia-like groups that carry out assassinations, so they are sort of like a hodge-podge.  But I think the bulk of what people call the spectacular attacks are carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq.

Melissa Block:  From the way you're describing it, it sounds like this is not exactly the same as the sectarian bloodshed -- the Shi'ite versus Sunni bloodshed -- that we saw earlier in the Iraq War or is it much the same?

Tim Arango:  No, it is quite different.  It's obviously a lot of it is sectarian nature in that Sunni groups are targeting Shia but we're not seeing the sort of violence from '06 and '07 that was almost an out-right sectarian war with death squads and with revenge killings.  We're not seeing that largely because the Shi'ite population -- you know, they're patient, they're not fighting back.  They-they control the government so there's this sense that there's much upside for them to go out like they used to and have these tit-for-tat killings.  [. . .]  They're [security forces] increasingly seen as incapable of securing the country and so you see a rising anger among the population against the security forces.  

Block never asked of protests despite the fact that they have been going on for over seven months and despite the fact that protest continued today in many areas including Tikrit and Falluja as part of a day of Unified Pride and Dignity. NINA reports:

Thousands of people flocked from different parts of Fallujah and Ramadi cities , to participate in the unified Fri-prayer.
Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.

 This wave of protests kicked off  December 21st and shows no signs of stopping currently. Yesterday at a Ramadi sit-in, a protester was injured when 2 bombs targeting the protesters went off.  That has not stopped the protests.  Nouri's forces attacking them or arresting them have not stopped the protests.  Nouri's forces have, in fact, become one of the biggest sewers of tension and mistrust in Iraq.

Last month, Iraq saw two prison breaks on July 21st (prison break wasn't announced until Monday, July 22nd).  The prison breaks led not only to an INTERPOL alert but to international press attention. 

Dropping back to July 27th:

The Washington Post editorial board notes, "Iraq’s renewed conflict gained attention this week because of the spectacular attack by al-Qaeda on two prison facilities, including the Abu Ghraib facility near Baghdad. The coordinated assault led to the escape of hundreds of security prisoners, including a number of top al-Qaeda leaders."  The editorial board of the Bangkok Post observes, "To put things into perspective, it is universally accepted today that when the US-led invasion of Iraq was mounted in March 2003, al-Qaeda was a non-entity in the country, even though it was falsely... " Yesterday, one escapee was captured in an eastern Baghdad mosque.  KUNA reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on Saturday fired director of the prison service and referred senior security officers investigations against the backdrop of the mass prisoner breakout."  NINA explains, "He listened to the report and statements by a number of the prisons' officers, he ordered the arrest of the officers, who primary report shows that they were negligent in their duty. Ordered that the report be referred to justice. They are: Commander of Federal Police Fourth Division, Commander of Federal Police Regiment charged with the Prison's security and his Deputy, as well as on duty Federal Police personnel. Maliki also ordered firing Director General of Prisons and refer him to justice."  All Iraq News also notes, "The Prime Minister ordered to detain several officers on the bases of their neglect for their duty including the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army Fourth Division, the Commander of the Federal Police Regiment along with his assistances, the intelligence elements, Federal police elements who were inside the prison during the jailbreak time."

In the latest news on those prison breaks, The Coordination Committee for Supporting the Iraqi Intifadha's "The Truth about the Massacres of Abu Graib and Al-Taji Prisons" (BRussells Tribunal):

After one of the armed groups in Iraq had stormed the prison (Abu Ghraib) on the evening of July 21 2013, a huge body of news, formal and informal, came out to explain that the group implemented twelve suicide bombings in order to demolish the outside wall of the prison and distract guards. This was followed by clashes between prison guards and units of the security forces on the one hand and the attacking group on the other. After the attack many of the detainees were smuggled and others fled.
Until today, no impartial and honest report about the incident has been announced, nor about the exact number of prisoners who were able to flee. Nevertheless, a member of the Security and Defense Committee in the House of Representative said in a program on Al-Baghdadiya TV[1] that at least 500 prisoners fled. But there is a total blackout on the part of the government in regards the number of casualties who were killed during the clashes between the two sides, or those who were executed on the spot, or after the forces regained control on the prison.
But the real number of detainees who had managed to escape according to many sources from the government, the media or the parliament, ranged from 500 to 3000. So far, there has not been any complete verification of casualties, or of those who have been arrested in the surrounding areas of the prison in the days following the operation. There is no information too about real data regarding the cases of those who fled, or the reason for their arrests in the first place.
Many observers had believed that what happened in the Taji prison on the same day is the same scenario that happened in Abu Ghraib prison, summarized above. But the Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari and many of the sources of the parliamentary committee of security and defense denied completely that there was any attack by any group on the Taji prison. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said during a meeting with the leaders of the military and security units after the Abu Graib operation that the attack on the Taji prison had failed completely due to the fierce resistance of units of prison guards in Taji, a prison that is located amid a special military camp for special military troops, in charge of protecting the city of Baghdad. But anyway, demonstrations slogans all over Iraq, especially in the south, call Maliki a lier.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper said in a detailed report published on July 30th 2013[2] that the truth is very different from what has been said in many channels and media reports of local and international media. Al-Quds investigation report stated, according to Jabbar Azzam, a lawyer working on several cases in the prison, that what happened in Taji prison was a bloody and heinous retaliation crime carried out by the Iraqi security forces in revenge after the attack on the Abu Ghraib prison, a fact that was indirectly confirmed by the Parliamentary Security Committee when its member said that not a single prisoner who fled from Taji prison. The report said that the prison guards and special units opened the doors and lied to the detainees, saying that there is an attempt to liberate them, exactly like what happened in Abu Ghraib prison. When the detainees tried to exit outside their cells, they were surprised by the presence of SWAT forces before them in the courtyard, who opened fire and  shoot randomly and directly at them, which led to the fall of many, others who were injured but remained alive were re-arrest and tortured.
The SWAT forces not only committed this brutal crime; but they also collected the victims’ bodies in a heap and left them to rot outside the prison for at least two days in the open and under the sun heat. Then it proceeded to burn the bodies, in a new Iraqi Holocaust that has been going on for ten years[3].
According to the account of eyewitness from Baghdad -a mother of two detainees- charred bodies had been handed over later to the department of forensic medicine in Baghdad, but they were so deformed that it was impossible to identifying the victims. The families of the detainees were prevented from entering the department to identify the bodies of their loved ones for a long time. Until today officials have not explained the reason behind burning the bodies by SWAT and its accompanying security forces. But people believe that the bodies had been cremated to cover up the decomposition, to hide the traces of torture, or for both reasons.
One of the TV channels in Baghdad announced later that there are 105 bodies in the forensic medicine office and called their parents to go to there to receive them.
Conflicting news about the truth of what actually happened at massacres of Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons, are still coming out. An ex-judge in the current Iraqi Government, Muneer Haddad, said that thousands of the detainees are innocent people, but opacity and confusion remains the prevailing policies and behavior of the Iraqi officials. He repeatedly called upon Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to step down and resign. In any case, most of the news and testimonies narrated by eyewitnesses confirm the massacre. Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi called upon Chairman of the Supreme Court Hassan Ibrahim Himiari to investigate the horrible torture in Iraqi prisons, and the killing and burning of dozens of detainees.
The daily horrors of what is happening inside Iraqi prisons such as torture, violation of human rights, and sectarian motivated revenge and liquidations are no secrets to anyone nowadays. Perhaps the Abu Ghraib prison is one of the most famous Iraqi prisons in the world, in terms of the unmatched horror and gravity of crimes committed against detainees. But Journalist and activist Haifa Zangana, among others, has shown that Taji prison is comparable to Abu Graib, but remains unknown to the outside world.
In an article Zangana wrote on July 26th, 2013[4] she reviewed some of what is going on inside these prisons such as assaults on detainees, both physically and psychologically: beatings, depriving them of the simplest rights, insulting, and threatening of assault on their families or relatives. In some cases guards urinate on detainees and force them to drink urine and to clean toilets with their beards, not to mention keeping prisoners for long hours in the scorching summer sun, in order to force them to sign false confessions and fabricated accusations to incriminate them with fake and malicious charges.
All these crimes committed daily against detainees in Iraq, while the majority of detainees are not presented to the judiciary. Some of them do not know why they are arrested and what they are accused of, even after spending several years in prison. Many went on hunger strike to protest these crimes and violations. But the authorities have given them a deaf ear.
In a televised confession of former Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh, he admitted that an Iraqi woman spent six years in jail without trial, and the case file was completely empty except of one document presented by the so-called secret informant who was completely unknown.

In more recent violence, All Iraq News notes last night saw an attack in Tikrit that left a police officer and his brother dead, and a Tikrit roadside bombing which left four Sahwa injured.  Rumors are circulating that General Abdul Ameer al-Zaidi, who commands the Dijla Operations, has been assassinated but All Iraq News reports the rumors are being denied.  AFP adds a Baghdad sticky bombing left an employee of the Ministry of Justice dead and his wife injured, 2 Sahwa were shot dead near Baiji and two more left injured, a Kirkuk bombing left one Iraqi soldier injured and 1 farmer was shot dead near Baquba.  (For those who don't read French, here's an English language version but it's incomplete so I'm using the French version.)  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 193 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month -- which averages out to 21.4 deaths a day.

Lynne Stewart is a US political prisoner -- sentenced for the 'crime' of issuing a press release.  Lynne's 'crime' spans three administrations.  Her 'crime' took place during President Bill Clinton's second term.  Janet Reno was Attorney General.  Janet Reno looked into the matter, gave Lynne a slap on the wrist because Janet Reno had the brains to grasp that administrative measure is not a law and that breaking it by issuing a press release is not a crime.  So that was that.

And then the Supreme Court put Bully Boy Bush into the White House and he made John Ashcroft Attorney General.  Ashcroft's most important act was going after Lynne.  Maybe that's why 9-11 happened?  Maybe if Ashcroft had paid attention to actual issues, 9-11 wouldn't have happened?  Who knows?  But he made it his life's work to go after Lynne because Lynne is the people's attorney who spent her career taking the defendants no one else wanted.  Maybe they couldn't pay the big bill or maybe they were too 'controversial' -- but Lynne took them on and fought for them and gave them the strong defense that the US legal system demands.

For that she was punished.  One of the lies about Barack that the Cult of St. Barack whispered in 2008, trying to drum up support for the corporatist War Hawk, was that, as the son of a Black male and White female, and as a Constitutional law 'professor,' Barack would rush to free Lynne. (Lynne is White. Her husband Ralph is African-American.) While he wouldn't help her, he and his administration went out of their way to penalize her -- again, she is taken into custody not under Bully Boy Bush.  She was convicted in February 2005.  Bully Boy Bush, for all his many faults and crimes, did not insist Lynne be taken into custody.  She was not a security threat to anyone and she was being treated for cancer and she was appealing the conviction.  So Bush let her remain at her residence in 2005, in 2006, in 2007 and in 2008.  It's only after January 2009, when Barack is sworn in, that Lynne's ordered to surrender.  And it is only after Barack is sworn in that Lynne gets resentenced (from 28 months to ten years).

Lynne could be out now.  But as Stephen Lendman (People's Voice) noted months ago, "Obama Wants Lynne Stewart Dead:"

Lynne's 73.  She's gravely ill.
Obama killed Chavez.  He wants Lynne dead.  Unjustifiable longterm imprisonment assures it.
She's a breast cancer survivor.  It reemerged.  It's spreading.
She's dying.  Vital life-saving treatment is delayed or denied.  Expert private care can save her.  She needs it now.

Due to the return of her cancer, she has sought a compassionate release as well as asked (yesterday) Judge John Koeltl for an early release.  Yesterday on Democracy Now! (link is text, video and audio), Amy Goodman spoke with Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter, her daughter Zenobia Brown and her attorney Jill Shellow.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read a letter from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Assistant Director Kathleen Kenney, dated June 24th, in which she denied Lynne Stewart’s request for compassionate release. She wrote, quote, "To date, she has been responding well to treatment. Ms. Stewart is ambulatory and independent in her Activities of Daily Living. While her illness is very serious, she is not suffering from a condition that is terminal within 18 months. Accordingly, Ms. Stewart does not present circumstances considered to be extraordinary and compelling to merit RIS at this time," unquote.

Now I want to compare that to the prognosis given by Lynne Stewart’s treating physician before she went into prison. Dr. Grossbard wrote in July 2012, about a year ago, quote, "The fact that Ms. Stewart’s disease has progressed on therapy along with the decline in her overall performance status and medical condition suggests [that] her survival will be less than 12 months at this time."

If—Jill Shellow, you’re Lynne Stewart’s attorney. She was denied compassionate release. Is this your last chance today with Judge Koeltl, the original judge in her case?

JILL SHELLOW: I hope not. I think it’s going to be part of a process. Lynne has—as a letter that you started—that you started to read from Kathy Kenney at the Bureau of Prisons says, if your circumstances change, you may seek reconsideration. Lynne has sought reconsideration of that denial. I believe that Judge Koeltl will hear us today. And while he could rule today, I believe it’s also possible that we will—that we will appear before him again at least once before this matter is resolved.

AMY GOODMAN: I also want to get response to a comment made by Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who was Lynne Stewart’s adversary during the 1995 trial of Mr. Abdel Rahman. He said he had no problem with the idea that prisoners like Abdel Rahman, who are serving life sentences for heinous offenses, should have to die in prison. But regarding Lynne Stewart’s case, he said, quote, "As a private citizen who was very fond of Lynne when we dealt with each other, I prefer to keep my thoughts to myself and my prayers for Lynne and her family." I want to turn to Lynne’s daughter, to Dr. Zenobia Brown. What will happen if Lynne were to be released? How will she be cared for?

DR. ZENOBIA BROWN: She would probably continue with the same treatment she’s been getting in prison. I think the piece that most people are not sort of cognizant of is that at this stage of cancer there is no cure. So, basically, it is a battle for time. And at this point, she is losing that battle, and that is clear. That is why it was so shocking when the BOP denied her compassionate release based on really what was not the case. There were 200 pages of medical records that went into—that went up to Washington and that would appear that none of them were reviewed, that no specialist in palliative care or no one who has any prognostic background looked at a single document.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a special in palliative—a specialist in palliative care?

DR. ZENOBIA BROWN: Right, and people facing life-limiting illness. So, just sort of looking through it, they literally made this decision based on a single physician’s comment that the patient was responding well. No doctor in this country is really trained to deal out justice. And basically, the entire case of whether my mother would be released or not was on a two-sentence letter from her treating oncologist. So, just the—sort of the injustice of that and the fact that there really was no sort of objective party looking at this data is—it really is mind-boggling.

This morning in Democracy Now! headlines, Amy Goodman noted:

A federal judge hinted he may lack jurisdiction to grant attorney Lynne Stewart’s request for compassionate release from federal prison so she can die from cancer at home surrounded by her family. Her prison physician estimates she has less than 18 months to live — a key requirement for early release. As supporters looked on from a packed courtroom during arguments Thursday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember told the judge: "It’s our position that Ms. Stewart has no authority to make the motion she has made, and your honor has no authority to consider it ... It is only the director of the Bureau of Prisons who has the authority." The Bureau denied the request earlier this year. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl at times appeared sympathetic to Stewart’s request, but told her defense team, "If I grant your motion, I would be violating the plain words of the statute" instructing the court on when it can grant early release. At one point during the hour-long hearing, Judge Koeltl asked the prosecutor: "You don’t think she has a strong argument for compassionate release, do you?" Dember replied: "There’s no doubt Ms. Stewart is ill. No one’s disputing Ms. Stewart’s illness, your honor." This is Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter’s reaction after the arguments.

Ralph Poynter: "The prosecution more or less said, 'Die or not, let's stick to the letter of the law.’ And his interpretation of the letter of the law is that there was no way for a judge to intercede in the bureaucratic chain of the prisons. And that is a very difficult pill to swallow."

Reuters reports that Koeltl ruled today and Lynne has "lost her bid on Friday to be released from prison because she is suffering from terminal cancer."

Let's state the grim truth, and the White House better pay attention to this, if Lynne dies in prison (which will happen without a compassionate release or pardon), this will be a stain on Barack's presidency like no other.  He's an attorney, she's an attorney.  Her life mirrors the fiction of Ann Dunham's life (Ann wasn't the noble person the press lies tell you) and, like Ann Dunham, she suffers from cancer.  If Barack does not ensure that Lynne is released her death in prison will be tied to him and used by one biographer after another to comment on his unresolved issues with his own mother.  These issues are ones his grandmother was very vocal about.  He'd be smart to hasten the release of Lynne even if it requires him making a phone call on his latest in a series of never-ending vacations.

jason ditz