Tuesday, June 29, 2010
ANKARA — All but two of the nine Turks killed in an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship were shot more than once, and five died from bullet wounds to the head, according to forensic reports.
The documents, penned this month, were made available to AFP Tuesday by lawyers for the victims' families, who have petitioned Turkish prosecutors to investigate the May 31 bloodshed on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ferry.
"The findings make it clear the Israeli forces shot to kill the activists and not to overpower them," one of the lawyers, Yasin Divrak, told AFP.
The youngest victim, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, a dual Turkish-US national, was shot five times, including twice in the head, the report said.
A bullet that pierced his face was fired from close range, it said, adding he was hit also in the back of the head.
The forensic experts failed to detect other close-distance shots on the remaining victims.
All nine bodies had been washed before being brought to Turkey and their clothes were either blood-soaked or otherwise unfit for analysis, making it impossible to reach a conclusion on the ranges of most shots, according to the documents.
Journalist Cevdet Kiliclar, 38, the web editor of the Islamist charity IHH that led the ill-fated campaign, was killed by a single bullet that hit him between the eyebrows, the report said.
Divrak drew attention to the autopsy of 61-year-old Ibrahim Bilgen, which included the discovery of a tiny bag containing pellets, still intact in his brain, which the report said was was fired from a hunting rifle.
"It is not a type of weapon that we have ever heard of," he said.
Israel says its commandos used force after they were attacked with sticks and stabbed as soon as they landed on the Mavi Marmara, which was sailing in international waters. But the activists insist the troops opened fire as soon as they landed.
The bloody ending to the aid mission, which had aimed to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, plunged ties between Turkey and Israel, once close allies, into deep crisis.
Turkey has dismissed a commission set up by Israel to investigate the raid, insisting for a UN-led international probe.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth is a non-partisan association of architects, engineers, and affiliates, who are dedicated to using scientific and engineering analysis to uncover the truths about the “collapses” of the WTC high-rises on 9/11/01. The organization has experienced phenomenal growth in its membership over the last two years, and currently has over 1,200 building professionals and practicing engineers on board, as well as over 8,000 laypersons. AE9/11Truth also maintains one of the most active Internet web sites questioning the official account of 9/11.
Mr. Gage has presented his research in over 150 national and international venues, and on as many radio and TV interviews. He is an engaging and articulate guest and would be a fascinating discussant on any morning talk show or local media broadcast. Arrangements can be made through his Tucson hosts, whose contact information is given below.
Richard Gage will lecture in the main chapel of St. Mark’s Church from 7 p.m. until approximately 9:00 p.m. Time will be allotted for questions after the presentation. Parking is available on site or on the neighboring streets. The lecture is open to the public and a donation of $7.00 is requested to cover expenses. Mr. Gage is the guest of the local chapter of 9/11 Truth, and can be contacted through program coordinators K. Woerner (403-5118) or J.T. Waldron (624-9710).
Friday, June 25, 2010
One of hundreds of female volunteers planning to sail to Hamas-ruled territory with diapers, milk, medical supplies and clothes says, 'Our only weapons are faith in the Virgin Mary and in humanity'
The hundreds of female volunteers planning to set sail to the Hamas-ruled territory aboard the ship "Mariam" deny allegations that the flotilla organizers are connected to Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group linked to Iran. "Be sure we will never give Israel such a gift as to fight them or to have Hezbollah with us or to have any political party with us,' the spokeswoman for the organizers of an aid flotilla from Lebanon to Gaza told The Times in an interview published Friday.
"Be sure we will never give Israel such a gift as to fight them or to have Hezbollah with us or to have any political party with us,' the spokeswoman for the organizers of an aid flotilla from Lebanon to Gaza told The Times in an interview published Friday."We have diapers, a lot of diapers, we have milk, we have treatments for cancer in children and medical supplies and clothes. If they fight we will not defend ourselves,” Semir El-Hajj said.
“Our only weapons are faith in the Virgin Mary and in humanity,” said Rima Farah, one of the activists.
The organizers told The Times that the women “all represent themselves”, are without political affiliations and include adherents to all the world’s big religions, including Judaism.
It remains unclear when the convoy will depart. Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk quoted a member of the International Movement Against Globalization and the American-Zionist Hegemony as saying that the "Freedom Flotilla 2" will consist of five ships from France, six from Germany and one from Lebanon.
According to movement, which is based in Egypt, the vessels are expected to begin the journey to Gaza on July 15 under the banner "The Shahid Mohammad al-Dura," referring to the 12-year-old Palestinian boy who the Palestinians claim was killed by the IDF during a furious exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen in Gaza in 2000.
The movement's representative added that activists from several countries, including Egypt, Ireland, Alegrira and some Gulf states will take part in the sail.
He said Israeli Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly), and Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, have already confirmed their participation.
The two Arab Israelis took part in the first sail to Gaza, during which Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship, leaving nine people dead.
The movement's representative said former South African President Nelson Mandela (92) will announce whether he will be taking part in the flotilla in the coming days.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran will not send a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza as it had planned to do on Thursday, according to a report from the official news agency of Iran.
The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Hossein Sheikholeslam, secretary-general of the International Conference for the Support of the Palestinian Intifada, as saying: "The Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid will not go to Gaza."
IRNA said that Sheikholeslam told reporters in the northern city of Rasht that the ship had originally been scheduled to depart for Gaza on Thursday, but that its departure was postponed until Sunday because of restrictions imposed by Israel.
He added that officials then decided instead to cancel the trip altogether, shipping to Gaza the goods by other means, IRNA said.
"The Zionist regime has made helping the people of Gaza, who are under siege, a political issue and we do not wish to politicize this kind of humanitarian aid because first and foremost we want the siege of Gaza to be broken," he said, according to the news agency. "The Zionist regime has sent a letter to the U.N. saying that the presence of Iranian and Lebanese ships in the Gaza area will be considered a declaration of war on that regime and it will react to it."
He added: "In order to deprive the Zionist regime of any excuse, the aid collected for the oppressed people of Gaza will be delivered to them by other means without mentioning the name of Iran."
In a posting on the Israel Defense Forces website, the chief of the general staff said Israel has "a natural right to inspect and to prevent the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip."
"If anyone is bothered by the situation in the Gaza Strip and wants to transfer medical supplies there, they can respect our guidelines and go through to the Ashdod port," Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday, according to the IDF. "We will inspect them, and if we can we will transfer them in."
Ashkenazi added, "It is important that we maintain this right and we cannot let the Gaza Strip turn into an Iranian port."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this month Israel's plans to ease its blockade of Gaza, a step commended by major powers and brushed off by Palestinian leaders.
Palestinian officials said the steps were an improvement but called for the blockade to be completely lifted and the Israeli occupation ended.
Israel's announcement came three weeks after ships in Israel's naval blockade sparred on May 31 with a flotilla of aid ships heading to Gaza. Israel's military stopped the flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists on one of the ships in the incident, which drew international condemnation.
Israel said its troops were attacked with knives, metal poles and other objects on one of the boats; the boat's passengers said they were fired upon without provocation.
Israeli leaders are facing more legal action from rights activists who are filing new lawsuits in connection with Israel's war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza.
Two Belgian lawyers filed an indictment on Wednesday on behalf of more than a dozen Palestinians, calling for some 14 Israeli officials to stand trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed during Tel Aviv's December 2008-January 2009 offensive against the Gaza Strip.
The list comprises of various politicians and military and intelligence officials — including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — who had a role in the deadly onslaught The Jerusalem Post quoted Hungarian News Agency MTI as saying.
The indictment defines Israel's deliberate targeting of places known to hold civilians as well as attacks on plantations and water systems, among other things, as war crimes committed during the 22-day offensive that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and left thousands more injured.
Belgium's "Universal Jurisdiction" law allows for the trial of war criminals in Belgium while the events in question took place elsewhere.
A Brussels court granted a war crimes suit against former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001. Fears of facing legal action in the country also made Livni refrain from traveling to Belgium as Israel's foreign minister in 2009.
Meanwhile, a group of Greek activists plan to sue senior Israeli officials for their role in the May 31 deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy and the killing of several civilians onboard the fleet while it was in international waters.
The 33 Greek nationals, who were accompanying the Gaza Freedom Flotilla when it came under fire, accuse high-ranking Israeli officials, including Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi of violating international laws by attacking the flotilla in international waters.
Seventy-two bone fragments were found in about two dump trucks of debris that had yet to be sifted by forensics experts, US television's ABC News reported Tuesday, citing the New York Medical Examiner's Office.
The office said DNA testing was likely to identify some of the remains, given the size and condition of the bone fragments. About 1,000 people of the nearly 3,000 victims of the suicide plane hijackings that brought down the two towers of the World Trade Center have yet to be identified.The experts sifted through 645 cubic metres of debris over three months to find the remains. The debris was the last from the World Trade Center that had yet to combed.
Only 289 intact bodies were recovered. May-30-2002 - cnn.com
Some World Trade Center victims were 'vaporized' 01/15/2002 USA Today
NEW YORK (AP) — Three months after the World Trade Center attack, victims' families are being forced to face the ghastly possibility that many of the dead were "vaporized," as the medical examiner put it, and may never be identified. So far, fewer than 500 victims have been positively identified out of the roughly 3,000 feared dead. Sixty were identified solely through DNA. Jan-15-2002 - fdiai.org
They don't even know how many people were in the buildings and stuff. I don't think they'll ever know. I've just been like working in sectors, on overtime in the past weeks, just seeing very few whole bodies going out, pieces of people, shoes and clothing with some bones inside. I never saw anything like that. -Lieutenant Gregg Hadala FDNY EMS Battalion 50 nytimes.com
At the World Trade Center, many of the victims recovered were horribly mangled, and in many cases only parts of bodies were recovered....The number of injured who required extrication, triage, and treatment was relatively small: “Either you were dead or you walked away from it. There was very little in between,” rand.org
I also know that we didn't see large numbers of patients. I think by the end of the day, we had only seen 100 or so patients -James Martin FDNY EMS Division Chief nytimes.com
I was in the military as an Army combat medic, not war time, but I had training in that. It reminded me, everything was perfect man. It was like a MASH unit set up in there, in like a warehouse. We had ambulances lined up in rows and we were all waiting for that call to go down there to save some lives and that call never came. That was the most saddest thing about it, that with a job this size, this magnitude, I was saying to myself there is going to be numerous injured and we are going to have to really depend on our skills. Not a call..... waiting and waiting and waiting for patients. No show. It was like — I think that was the toughest thing, is that a job that magnitude you would expect thousands and thousands of patients. After the first wave, nothing. There were no survivors. -Michael Mejias FDNY EMT nytimes.com
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Americans spend twice as much as residents of other developed countries on healthcare, but get lower quality, less efficiency and have the least equitable system, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The United States ranked last when compared to six other countries -- Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, the Commonwealth Fund report found.
"As an American it just bothers me that with all of our know-how, all of our wealth, that we are not assuring that people who need healthcare can get it," Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Previous reports by the nonprofit fund, which conducts research into healthcare performance and promotes changes in the U.S. system, have been heavily used by policymakers and politicians pressing for healthcare reform.
Davis said she hoped health reform legislation passed in March would lead to improvements.
The current report uses data from nationally representative patient and physician surveys in seven countries in 2007, 2008, and 2009. It is available here
In 2007, health spending was $7,290 per person in the United States, more than double that of any other country in the survey.
Australians spent $3,357, Canadians $3,895, Germans $3,588, the Netherlands $3,837 and Britons spent $2,992 per capita on health in 2007. New Zealand spent the least at $2,454.
This is a big rise from the Fund's last similar survey, in 2007, which found Americans spent $6,697 per capita on healthcare in 2005, or 16 percent of gross domestic product.
"We rank last on safety and do poorly on several dimensions of quality," Schoen told reporters. "We do particularly poorly on going without care because of cost. And we also do surprisingly poorly on access to primary care and after-hours care."
NETHERLANDS RANKED FIRST OVERALL
The report looks at five measures of healthcare -- quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.
Britain, whose nationalized healthcare system was widely derided by opponents of U.S. healthcare reform, ranks first in quality while the Netherlands ranked first overall on all scores, the Commonwealth team found.
U.S. patients with chronic conditions were the most likely to say they gotten the wrong drug or had to wait to learn of abnormal test results.
"The findings demonstrate the need to quickly implement provisions in the new health reform law," the report reads.
Critics of reports that show Europeans or Australians are healthier than Americans point to the U.S. lifestyle as a bigger factor than healthcare. Americans have higher rates of obesity than other developed countries, for instance.
"On the other hand, the other countries have higher rates of smoking," Davis countered. And Germany, for instance, has a much older population more prone to chronic disease.
Every other system covers all its citizens, the report noted and said the U.S. system, which leaves 46 million Americans or 15 percent of the population without health insurance, is the most unfair.
"The lower the performance score for equity, the lower the performance on other measures. This suggests that, when a country fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, it also fails to meet the needs of the average citizen," the report reads.
BP's Other Gifts to America and the to the World
By LAWRENCE S. WITTNER
The offshore oil drilling catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico brought to us by BP has overshadowed its central role over the past century in fostering some other disastrous events.
BP originated in 1908 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company—a British corporation whose name was changed to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company two decades later. With exclusive rights to extract, refine, export, and sell Iran's rich oil resources, the company reaped enormous profits. Meanwhile, it shared only a tiny fraction of the proceeds with the Iranian government. Similarly, although the company's British personnel lived in great luxury, its Iranian laborers endured lives of squalor and privation.
In 1947, as Iranian resentment grew at the giant oil company's practices, the Iranian parliament called upon the Shah, Iran's feudal potentate, to renegotiate the agreement with Anglo-Iranian. Four years later, Mohammed Mossadeq, riding a tide of nationalism, became the nation's prime minister. As an enthusiastic advocate of taking control of Iran's oil resources and using the profits from them to develop his deeply impoverished nation, Mossadeq signed legislation, passed unanimously by the country's parliament, to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
The British government was horrified. Eager to assist the embattled corporation, it imposed an economic embargo on Iran and required its technicians to leave the country, thus effectively blocking the Iranian government from exporting its oil. When this failed to bring the Iranians to heel, the British government sought to arrange for the overthrow of Mossadeq—first through its own efforts and, later (when Britain's diplomatic mission was expelled from Iran for its subversive activities), through the efforts of the U.S. government. But President Truman refused to commit the CIA to this venture.
To the delight of Anglo-Iranian, it received a much friendlier reception from the new Eisenhower administration. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had worked much of his life as a lawyer for multinational corporations, and viewed the Iranian challenge to corporate holdings as a very dangerous example to the world. Consequently, the CIA was placed in charge of an operation, including fomenting riots and other destabilizing activities, to overthrow Mossadeq and advance oil company interests in Iran.
Organized by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt in the summer of 1953, the coup was quite successful. Mossadeq was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life, the power of the pro-Western shah was dramatically enhanced, and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was once again granted access to Iran's vast oil resources. To be sure, thanks to the key role played in the coup by the U.S. government, the British oil company—renamed British Petroleum—henceforth had to share the lucrative oil extraction business in Iran with U.S. corporations. Even so, in the following decades, with the Iranian public kept in line by the Shah's dictatorship and by his dreaded secret police, the SAVAK, it was a very profitable arrangement—although not for most Iranians.
But, of course, actions can have unforeseen consequences. In Iran, public anger grew at the Shah's increasingly autocratic rule, culminating in the 1979 revolution and the establishment of a regime led by Islamic fanatics. Not surprisingly, the new rulers—and much of the population—blamed the United States for the coup against Mossadeq and its coziness with the Shah. This, in turn, led to the ensuing hostage crisis and to the onset of a very hostile relationship between the Iranian and U.S. governments.
And there was worse to come. Terrified by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on their southern border, Soviet leaders became obsessed with fundamentalist revolt in Afghanistan and began pouring troops into that strife-torn land. This was the signal for the U.S. government to back an anti-Soviet, fundamentalist jihad in Afghanistan, thus facilitating the growth of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, who eventually turned their weapons on the United States.
Furthermore, as part of its anti-Iran strategy, the U.S. government grew increasingly chummy with Iran's arch foe, Iraq. As Saddam Hussein seemed a particularly useful ally, Washington provided him with military intelligence and the helicopters that he used to spray poison gas on Iranian troops during the Iran-Iraq War. Might not such a friendship, cemented with a handshake by Donald Rumsfeld, have emboldened Saddam Hussein to act more freely in the region in subsequent years? It certainly didn't improve U.S. relations with Iran, which today is headed by a deplorable government that—consumed by fear and loathing of the United States—might be developing nuclear weapons.
At this point, we might well wonder if it was such a good idea to overthrow a democratic, secular nationalist like Mossadeq to preserve the profits of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now renamed BP). Indeed, given the sordid record of BP and other giant oil companies, we might wonder why we tolerate them at all.
Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press).
Congressman Markey - who chairs the select committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment subcommittee - alleges:
What’s clear is that BP has had an interest in low-balling the size of their accident, since every barrel spilled increases how much they could be fined by the government.Markey and many others point to the fact that BP's fines under the Clean Water Act are based on how many barrels of oil have spilled.
It is therefore not very surprising that BP is pretending that it is difficult to measure the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf.
But a commenter at the Oil Drum points out that BP had the technology to accurately measure the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf - without damaging any equipment - 2 years ago (edited for readability):
Would it surprise anyone to know that BP had already developed the technology to accurately measure troublesome oil and gas flow mixtures at the well head two years ago? It can be done remotely and continuously, at up to 10,000 feet, with a clamp-on, calibration free, sonar flow meter, or that the company that sells and installs them is presenting at petroleum conventions in Calgary and Newfoundland this summer?
The reason BP does not want the true flow known, is that it would require them to pay the "legitimate" fines and royalties they owe on what is extracted, regardless of whether it is ever recovered. As of mid-June their violations of the Clean Water Act alone are around $10B.
The reason no other oil driller wants it known, is that they may own the next blowout and will also want to conceal their true obligations.
Here's Expro Meters' product video.And here's a description of Expro Meters' product from ScandOil.com:And the following document - on BP's own website - contradicts everything they have said about not being able to accurately measure the rate of their Gulf oil leak (excerpt from p. 5 of BP's own Frontiers publication, August, 2008):
Expro’s latest deepwater intervention technology will be showcased at both events. Expro’s AX-S system will break new ground in subsea well intervention when it comes to the market.
AX-S™ (pronounced ‘access’) brings cost-effective, riser-less intervention to deepwater wells (up to 10,000ft of water). Expro’s goal is to deliver a full range of wireline intervention services in deepwater wells at substantially less than the cost of using a rig.
Expro Meters offers wellhead surveillance on demand, utilizing a range of clamp-on sonar-based metering technology. Expro offers round-the-clock, 24/7 well surveillance, on any well type or location. Expro’s meters are clamp-on, non intrusive, easily installed and applied without production shutdown, providing operators with a permanent solution to their wellhead production surveillance needs.
Expro Meters are also available on demand to provide quick and easy well testing services through our portable clamp-on meters – anywhere in the world.
BP has identified that by combining sonar flow measurement with additional measured parameters, such as pressure drop in a flow line, both the liquid rate and the gas rate on a wet gas flow line can be determined. BP has proven this additional breakthrough in practice and expects to deploy the technique in the field by the end of this year.
It appears that measuring hydrocarbon flows which contain small but troublesome percentages of liquids or gas may be less problematic in the future thanks to BP's creative vision for sonar flow measurement.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.
The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and "dramatically undermine" larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.
The report describes a Defense Department that is well aware that some of the money paid to contractors winds up in the hands of warlords and insurgents. Military logisticians on the ground are focused on getting supplies where they are needed and have "virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided" for the local truck convoys that transport more than 70 percent of all goods and materials used by U.S. troops. Alarms raised by prime trucking contractors were met by the military "with indifference and inaction," the report said.
"The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking," Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) wrote in an introduction to the 79-page report, titled "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan."
The report comes as the number of U.S. casualties is rising in the Afghan war, and public and congressional support is declining. The administration has been on the defensive in recent weeks, insisting that the slow progress of anti-Taliban offensives in Helmand province and the city of Kandahar does not mean that more time is needed to assess whether President Obama's strategy is working.
"I think it's much too early to draw a negative conclusion," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. "I think there's more positive than negative. We're heading toward a year-end assessment, which will be a big one for us." The review was set when Obama announced in December that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and begin to withdraw them in July 2011.
Tierney is chairman of the national security subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose majority staff spent six months preparing the report. A proponent of a smaller U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan and targeted attacks on insurgents, Tierney said in an interview Monday that he hopes the report will help members of Congress "analyze whether they think this is the most effective way to go about dealing with terrorism. Or the most cost-effective way."
The report's conclusions will be introduced at a hearing Tuesday at which senior military and defense officials are scheduled to testify. The report says that all evidence and findings were made available to Republicans on the subcommittee. A spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), the ranking Republican, said the lawmaker will not comment until he has seen the entire report.
In testimony shortly after Obama's strategy announcement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that "much of the corruption" in Afghanistan has been fueled by billions of dollars' worth of foreign money spent there, "and one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."
Military officials said that they have begun several corruption investigations in Afghanistan and that a task force has been named, headed by Navy Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, director of logistics and supply operations for the chief of naval operations and former head of the Baghdad-based joint contracting command for Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the wake of Monday’s Supreme Court decision upholding a law making it a crime to provide any “material support” to an organization designated as a “terrorist” by the U.S. government, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter charged that the law “actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence.”
Carter, whose organization, the Carter Center, filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case, said in a statement, “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups.”
“The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom,” he added.
Carter joined numerous civil and human rights advocates in attacking the court’s 6-3 ruling “to criminalize speech” in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. It was the first case to challenge the PATRIOT Act before the highest court in the land, and the first post-9/11 case to pit free speech guarantees against national security claims.
Attorneys say that under the court’s ruling, many groups and individuals providing peaceful advocacy could be prosecuted, including President Carter, for training all parties in fair election practices in Lebanon.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority, affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding the case back to the lower court for review.
Justice Stephen Breyer dissented and read his dissent aloud before his fellow justices – always a sign of an opinion very deeply felt. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
The court held that the statute’s prohibitions on “expert advice,” “training,” “service,” and “personnel” were not vague, and did not violate speech or associational rights as applied to plaintiffs’ intended activities.
Plaintiffs sought to provide assistance and education on human rights advocacy and peacemaking to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey, a designated terrorist organization. Multiple lower court rulings had found the statute unconstitutionally vague.
The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Georgetown Law Center’s David Cole, a widely respected constitutional scholar, sees the “material support” paradigm of “preemptively weeding out threats to national security, guilt by association” resurrected from the McCarthy era.
He told IPS, “While it was illegal in the 1950s to be a member of the Communist Party, it is now a crime to support an individual or organization on a terror watch list, although the government can designate and freeze assets without a showing of actual ties to terrorism or illegal acts.”
Cole asserts that support for the lawful activities of a designated group should not be unlawful, and that the not-for-profit sector needs to insist that constitutional rights apply in the war on terror. He is calling for changes in the enabling legislation when Congress returns from its August recess.
“While the House Un-American Activities Committee once relied on the private sector to mete out punishment through the destruction of reputations and careers, today measures such as the Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines have turned funders into the new enforcers. In this light, he said the nonprofit sector has an obligation to resist such a partnership with government,” he says.
The court rejected the government’s argument that the statute, when applied to plaintiffs’ proposed speech, regulated not speech but conduct, and therefore needed to meet only a low standard – “intermediate scrutiny” – to survive.
Instead, the court found that the statute did criminalize speech on the basis of its content, but then found that the government’s interest in delegitimizing groups on the designated “terrorist organization” list was sufficiently great to overcome the heightened level of scrutiny.
This one of a very few times that the Supreme Court has upheld a criminal prohibition of speech under strict scrutiny, and the first time it has permitted the government to make it a crime to advocate lawful, nonviolent activity.
One constitutional authority, law professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois law school, told IPS that the decision upheld the government’s position as set out by the solicitor general, Elena Kagan, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Boyle said that Kagan “argued this case as solicitor general and maintained during oral argument that any lawyer who filed an amicus brief in a U.S. Court on behalf of a designated terrorist organization would be violating the material support statute and thus risk criminal prosecution.”
Boyle said Kagan’s arguments in this case “demonstrate emphatically why she must not be confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court. She has driven yet another nail into the coffin of the First Amendment and the U.S. Bill of Rights that was originally constructed by the [George W.] Bush administration with the USA PATRIOT Act.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the court’s ruling “thwarts the efforts of human rights organizations to persuade violent actors to renounce violence or cease their human rights abuses and jeopardizes the provision of aid and disaster relief in conflict zones controlled by designated groups.”
Under the law, individuals face up to 15 years in prison for providing “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations, even if their work is intended to promote peaceful, lawful objectives.
In order to protect the new national health care law from legal challenges, the Obama administration has been forced to argue that the individual mandate represents a tax -- even though Obama himself argued the exact opposite while campaigning to pass the legislation.
Late last night, the Obama Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss the Florida-based lawsuit against the health care law, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction and that the State of Florida and fellow plaintiffs haven't presented a claim for which the court can grant relief. To bolster its case, the DOJ cited the Anti-Injunction Act, which restricts courts from interfering with the government's ability to collect taxes.
The Act, according to a DOJ memo supporting the motion to dismiss, says that "no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person, whether or not such person is the person against whom such tax was assessed." The memo goes on to say that it makes no difference whether the disputed payment it is called a "tax" or "penalty," because either way, it's "assessed and collected in the same manner" by the Internal Revenue Service.
But this is a characterization that Democrats, and specifically Obama, angrily denounced during the health care debate. Most prominently, in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Obama argued that the mandate was "absolutely not a tax increase," and he dug into his view even after being confronted with a dictionary definition:
OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn't have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition. I mean what...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no, but...
OBAMA: ...what you're saying is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.
OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I'm taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we're going to have an individual mandate or not, but...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it's a tax increase?
OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.
At the time Obama made that statement, the Senate Finance Committee had just released its own health care bill, which clearly referred to the mandate penalty as an "excise tax." But in later versions, the word "tax" was stripped, because it had become too much of a political liability for Democrats. The final version that Obama signed did not describe the mandate as a tax, and used the Commerce Clause -- not federal taxing power -- as the Constitutional justification for the mandate.
""This is an about face from what is laid out in the law," said Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business, which joined the Florida lawsuit against ObamaCare. "In the text of the healthcare law, the findings for passing an individual mandate specifically rely on the effects of individuals on the national economy and interstate commerce. Nowhere in the findings is the mandate referred to as a tax. The Justice Department is now calling it a tax to try and convince the court not to rule on whether or not Congress exceeded their authority under the Commerce Clause by legislating that all citizens must purchase private health insurance or face a penalty."
Put another way, the administration is now arguing in federal court that Obama signed a massive middle-class tax increase, in violation of his campaign pledge.
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has given his strongest indication yet about the next big leak from his whistleblower organisation.
There has been rampant speculation about WikiLeaks' next revelation following its recent release of a top secret military video showing an attack in Baghdad which killed more than a dozen people, including two employees of the Reuters news agency.
Bradley Manning, a US military intelligence officer based in Iraq, has been arrested on suspicion of leaking the video but it is also claimed that Manning bragged online that he had handed WikiLeaks 260,000 secret US State Department cables.
In an interview with the ABC's Foreign Correspondent, Mr Assange said cryptically of WikiLeaks' current project:
"I can give an analogy. If there had been mass spying that had affected many, many people and organisations and the details of that mass spying were released then that is something that would reveal that the interests of many people had been abused."
He agreed it would be of the "calibre" of publishing information about the way the top secret Echelon system - the US-UK electronic spying network which eavesdrops on worldwide communications traffic - had been used.
Mr Assange also confirmed that WikiLeaks has a copy of a video showing a US military bombing of a western Afghan township which killed dozens of people, including children.
He noted, though, it was a very intricate case "substantially more complex" than the Iraq material WikiLeaks had released - referring to the gunship video.
European news media are reporting that Mr Assange has "surfaced from almost a month in hiding", speaking at a freedom of information seminar at the European parliament in Brussels.
But during the course of the past month, Mr Assange has been talking to Foreign Correspondent for a program examining the efficacy of the WikiLeaks model.
"What we want to create is a system where there is guaranteed free press across the world, the entire world, that every individual in the world has the ability to publish materials that is meaningful," he said.
The program has also spoken directly to former computer hacker Adrian Lamo who blew the whistle on Bradley Manning after a boastful online discussion in which Lamo alleges the military intelligence adviser revealed himself as a significant WikiLeaks source.
"He proceeded to identify himself as an intelligence analyst and pose the question: What would you do if you have unprecedented access to classified data 14 hours a day seven days a week?" Mr Lamo said.
"He (Manning) was firing bullets into the air without thought to consequence of where they might land or who they might hit."
WikiLeaks has built an information repository it thinks is foolproof. Instead of secret documents physically changing hands, they are anonymously sent to digital drop boxes and stored on servers around the world. Finally, they are posted on the WikiLeaks site.
During Foreign Correspondent's assignment Mr Assange had been preparing to fly to New York to meet his hero - Daniel Ellsberg - the former US military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers which amounted to a devastating expose of the Vietnam War.
Instead, concerned about travelling in the US and attracting the interest of authorities, he used Skype to speak to the conference.
He told the crowd: "Leaking is inherently an anti-authoritarian act. It's inherently an anarchist act."
Mr Assange has been quoted as saying he feels perfectly safe in Europe, "but I have been advised by my lawyers not to travel to the US during this period".
Daniel Ellsberg, named by Henry Kissinger as "the most dangerous man in America", told Foreign Correspondent that Mr Assange was "a good candidate for being the most dangerous man in the world, in the eyes of people like the one who gave me that award".
"I'm sure that Assange is now regarded as one of the very most dangerous men and he should be quite proud of that."
Truth or Dare, Foreign Correspondent's examination of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, airs tonight at 8PM on ABC 1
Monday, June 21, 2010
The US says it will not pull out large numbers of its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, contradicting a promise made earlier by President Barack Obama.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates brushed aside suggestions that Washington would, in accordance with a deadline set by Obama, begin a significant draw-down of its troops in July of 2011.
"That absolutely has not been decided," Gates said.
He also emphasized that any decision would be made based upon the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
Similar remarks were made earlier by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who said in an interview with ABC that the size of the reduction would depend on conditions on the ground.
The comments come at a time when US-led forces are wrestling with growing militancy in Afghanistan as outbursts of violence claim more lives from US-led troops.
General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, said last week that in setting the deadline for the surge last year, Obama's message was "one of urgency -- not that July 2011 is when we race for the exits, reach for the light switch and flip it off."
Earlier in June, after a meeting in Brussels, Gates said that Washington had underestimated the volatility of the situation in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and had not deployed sufficient troops.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Hundreds of demonstrators, gathering at the Port of Oakland before dawn, prevented the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship.
The demonstrators, demanding an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, picketed at Berth 58, where a ship from Israel's Zim shipping line is scheduled to dock later today. The day shift of longshoremen agreed not to cross the picket line.
International pressure to end the Gaza closure has increased since Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of ships attempting to run the blockade on May 31, killing nine people. Last week, Israeli officials announced that they would loosen but not lift the blockade, allowing more goods to enter the impoverished area.
"Our view is that the state of Israel can not engage in acts of piracy and kill people on the high seas and still think their cargo can go anywhere in the world," said Richard Becker, an organizer with ANSWER, one of many peace and labor groups involved in Sunday's action.
Becker estimated that 600 to 700 people joined the demonstration, many of them arriving at 5:30 a.m. Oakland police, who estimated the crowd at 500 people, reported no arrests.
The demonstrators want to block the unloading of the Zim ship for a full day. After convincing the day shift of longshoreman to honor the picket line, the demonstrators dispersed around 10 a.m., Becker said. The ship is scheduled to arrive in mid-afternoon, and the demonstrators plan to gather again around 4:30 p.m. and re-establish their picket line before the evening shift of longshoremen arrives at 6 p.m.
The facade is starting to wear thin...
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer - the most monotonous voice in cable news - is also one of the most restrained personalities. He is so incredibly boring, lacks any charisma or inducement to humor and lobbies one softball question after another.
It is outstanding that even in a failing network like CNN he is accorded three hours daily. For Christ’s sake, the preceding buffoon Rick Sanchez is more amusing! Or just run re-runs of Larry King interviewing Marlon Brando!
But occasionally Blitzer’s passion will leak through, as it recently did. Pay very careful attention to the tone Blitzer takes here when he is subject to listening to a plethora of anti-Israel comments voiced by CNN viewers:
Blizter is clearly bothered and unhappy, and with good reason. Because Blizter started his career in ‘journalism’ working for the famed Israel lobby: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC. Blizter wrote for its mouthpiece, the Near East Report, and then took up a position with the Jerusalem Post after it came under new ownership and moved from being a left-wing, pro-peace publication to a Likud, militant Zionist and neo-conservative rag. Blizter wrote for them before joining CNN as their (Occupied) Jerusalem correspondent. Prior to Blizter’s CNN hiring, the network had come under strong criticism for its supposedly anti-Israel bias in covering the first Intifada and fired/replaced its targeted journalists and replaced them with Blizter, a man with pro-Israel bonafides, in order to appease the Zionist hoodlum lynch mob:
...in the midst of the Palestinian uprising, the Likud government launched a dirty and successful campaign against CNN, accusing two of its former staff members in Israel, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Robert Weiner and correspondent Michael Greenspan, of “anti-Israel” news coverage of the intifada. The anti-CNN campaign, during which Weiner and Greenspan were branded as “self-hating Jews,” was joined by several American Jewish organizations, led by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith. It resulted in the firing of Greenspan and the reassignment of Weiner. “The hostile journalists of CNN are finally going home, ” announced a bold headline in Israel’s daily, Yediot Aharonot.
...on April 20, 1991, CNN broadcast a half-hour special report entitled “The Israeli Connection” and hosted by correspondent Mark Feldstein. The report presented various perspectives on the Israeli-Arab conflict and raised questions about the strength of US-Israeli ties in the aftermath of the Gulf War and the end of the Cold War. “The Gulf conflict is over now, but another, older conflict remains,” Feldstein stated. “How much longer it will do so may well depend on Israel’s willingness to do what it has so far refused—change the status quo.
This was too much to stomach for the usual chorus. AIPAC’s newsletter, Near East Report, said that CNN “is a home for Israel bashers. ” This ignores the fact that CNN’s correspondent, Wolf Blitzer, is a former editor of that same newsletter,
During the 1980s, Blizter also wrote for Hadassah magazine, the publication of The Women’s Zionist Org of America. And here is Blitzer before his CNN days advocating on behalf of Zionism:
Thus it is no surprise that Blizter is a little irritated, to say the least. More to the point: why is a man who dedicated much of his career to the promotion of Zionism accorded such a prominent news position with the mask of objectivity? At a minimum, he should excuse himself from ever discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Would CNN ever hire a man who wrote for, say, Wafa (the PLO’s wire news service) for any position expect that of commentator (if that)? The answer is obvious.
Translation: We're finding it more difficult to lie to the public and those who are posting true contradictions to our lies are internet terrorists.
WASHINGTON -- Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation's homeland security chief said Friday.
As terrorists increasingly recruit U.S. citizens, the government needs to constantly balance Americans' civil rights and privacy with the need to keep people safe, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
But finding that balance has become more complex as homegrown terrorists have used the Internet to reach out to extremists abroad for inspiration and training. Those contacts have spurred a recent rash of U.S.-based terror plots and incidents.
"The First Amendment protects radical opinions, but we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet," Napolitano told a gathering of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Napolitano's comments suggest an effort by the Obama administration to reach out to its more liberal, Democratic constituencies to assuage fears that terrorist worries will lead to the erosion of civil rights.
The administration has faced a number of civil liberties and privacy challenges in recent months as it has tried to increase airport security by adding full-body scanners, or track suspected terrorists traveling into the United States from other countries.
"Her speech is sign of the maturing of the administration on this issue," said Stewart Baker, former undersecretary for policy with the Department of Homeland Security. "They now appreciate the risks and the trade-offs much more clearly than when they first arrived, and to their credit, they've adjusted their preconceptions."
Underscoring her comments are a number of recent terror attacks over the past year where legal U.S. residents such as Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad and accused Fort Hood, Texas, shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, are believed to have been inspired by the Internet postings of violent Islamic extremists.
And the fact that these are U.S. citizens or legal residents raises many legal and constitutional questions.
Napolitano said it is wrong to believe that if security is embraced, liberty is sacrificed.
She added, "We can significantly advance security without having a deleterious impact on individual rights in most instances. At the same time, there are situations where trade-offs are inevitable."
As an example, she noted the struggle to use full-body scanners at airports caused worries that they would invade people's privacy.
The scanners are useful in identifying explosives or other nonmetal weapons that ordinary metal-detectors might miss -- such as the explosives that authorities said were successfully brought on board the Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He is accused of trying to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear, but the explosives failed, and only burned Abdulmutallab.
U.S. officials, said Napolitano, have worked to institute a number of restrictions on the scanners' use in order to minimize that. The scans cannot be saved or stored on the machines by the operator, and Transportation Security Agency workers can't have phones or cameras that could capture the scan when near the machine.
BP has been telling cleanup workers that they don't need to wear respirators or other protective gear.
As Jerrold Nadler, the New York congressman whose district includes the World Trade Center, said today:
We're repeating the same catastrophe in the Gulf. You see pictures of people wearing regular clothes who are wading in and scooping oil off the water. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, are going to get sick unnecessarily.More egregious still, sources on the ground say that BP is telling cleanup workers that they will be fired if they wear respirators:
Because - as part of their PR campaign - BP is doing everything it can to prevent dramatic pictures or headlines regarding the oil spill.
For example, BP has been keeping reporters out of areas hardest hit by the oil (and see this, this, this and this) and threatening to arrest them if they try to take pictures, hiding dead birds and other sealife, and using dispersants to break up the thick plumes of oil. Indeed, attorney and environmental advocate Monique Harden says that BP is "running the Gulf region like a prison warden".
Saturday, June 19, 2010
According to Al-Quds al-Arabi report, 11 American warships, one Israeli vessel, crossed Suez Canal into Red Sea
Eleven American battleships and an Israeli one crossed the Suez Canal Friday en route to the Red Sea, the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported. According to the report, traffic in the canal was halted for several hours in order to allow US Navy vessels, which included an aircraft carrier and carried infantry troops, armored vehicles and ammunition, to pass from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
It was further reported that eyewitnesses detected an Israeli warship among the vessels. No confirmation has been received from Egyptian authorities.
The report also noted that fishing activities in the area were stopped during the ships' passage as well as traffic on the bridges above the canal.Retired Egyptian General Amin Radi, chairman of the national security affairs committee, told the paper that "the decision to declare war on is not easy, and , due to its wild nature, may start a war just to remain the sole nuclear power in the region.
Middle East Monitor
Israeli authorities have warned that they will arrest any peace activists who participate in international aid convoys bound for the Gaza Strip and put them on trial.
According to Maarif Hebrew newspaper, "Israel sent a clear warning to the international community with the announcement that it plans to arrest, conduct a thorough investigation and prosecute any person on board the ships that are expected to arrive soon." This was a reference to Lebanese and Iranian ships allegedly being sent to break the illegal blockade of Gaza, and a second Freedom Flotilla later in the year.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, "We have asked foreign ambassadors to send a message to the citizens of their countries asking them to reconsider being on board similar aid ships given that the treatment they will encounter will vary from that used with the last flotilla that sailed from Turkey." Any ships sailing from Lebanon would, the spokesperson said, face the possibility of hostile treatment. "Turkey is not defined as an enemy country", the spokesperson added, whereas Lebanon is regarded as such by Israel.
Israel is apparently keen to send threatening letters explaining that passengers detained will not be deported after 24 hours at the expense of taxpayers in Israel, as with the Freedom Flotilla, "but will stand trial and will be jailed".
Friday, June 18, 2010
The man behind whistleblower website Wikileaks says he is not in a position to record an interview amid claims his life is in danger.
Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of Wikileaks, is said to be under threat with reports that the site has hundreds of thousands of classified cables containing explosive revelations.
There was an international uproar in April when the website released classified US military video which officials had been refusing to make public for three years.
The leaked video showed a US helicopter crew mistaking a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher before firing on a group of people in Iraq.
Mr Assange has also told his supporters he is planning to release a video of a US air strike in Afghanistan that killed many civilians.
The 2007 video of the US army helicopter shooting civilians has already led to a chain of events which reportedly has Mr Assange in hiding.
A hacker blew the whistle on the US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who allegedly handed that video to Wikileaks.
Mr Manning is now reported to be in custody in Kuwait.
The hacker says Mr Manning bragged to him about having thousands of diplomatic cables that would embarrass US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world.
It has since been reported that American officials are searching for Mr Assange to pressure him not to publish the cables.
But an unnamed source in the Obama administration has told Newsweek that the US government is not trying to convince Mr Assange not to release the cables, but it is trying to contact him.
The World Today has also received an email from Mr Assange which says: "Due to present circumstances, I am not able to easily conduct interviews".
In an email to supporters this week, Mr Assange denies Wikileaks has 260,000 classified US department cables.
But he confirms the website has a video of a US air strike on a village in western Afghanistan in May last year.
The Afghan government said at the time of the attack that 140 civilians died.
Life in danger
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon papers in the 1970s showing government deceit over the Vietnam War, says he believes Mr Assange has reason to keep his whereabouts secret.
"I think it's worth mentioning [that there is] a very new and ominous development in our country," he said.
"I think he would not be safe, even physically, entirely wherever he is.
"We have, after all, for the first time ever perhaps in any democratic country... a president who has announced that he feels he has the right to use special operations operatives against anyone abroad that he thinks is associated with terrorism."
Mr Ellsberg told a US TV network Mr Assange's life may be in danger.
"I was, in fact, the subject of a White House hit squad in November on May 3, 1972," he said.
"A dozen Cuban assets were brought up from Miami with orders, quoting their prosecutor 'to incapacitate Daniel Ellsberg totally' on the steps of the Capitol.
"It so happens when I was in a rally during the Vietnam war and I asked the prosecutor 'what does that mean - kill me?' He said the words were to incapacitate you totally, but you should understand these guys, meaning the CIA operatives, never use the word 'kill'."
Professor Amin Saikal, director of the centre for Arab and Islamic studies at the Australian National University, says the US government has strong motivations for keeping video of the strike under wraps.
"That NATO operation in western Afghanistan caused quite a number of civilian casualties which caused outrage among the Afghan leaders," he said.
"The issue was also raised very strongly in the Afghan parliament.
"I suppose that the American authorities would be very adverse at the release of the video at this point which could cause more problems in the relationship between Afghanistan and Washington."
As far fetched as Mr Ellsberg's claim sounds, the national president of Whistleblowers Australia, Peter Bennett, agrees Mr Assange's life may be at risk.
"There is a lot of money to be made from wars. There is a lot of people who will become very, very wealthy through the course of this Afghan war," he said.
"To stop anybody raising questions about its conduct would put those profits at risk and profit is a high motivation to stop somebody interfering with those profits.
"It is possible that there are vested interests - military, political and certainly economic, possibly even criminal - who would rather him not release that information.
"There is a serious chance that his wellbeing could be at risk. If I was in his shoes, I would be taking all necessary precautions to make sure that my whereabouts and my wellbeing were being protected."
On Monday, a host of New York's electeds held a press conference in Times Square calling on the State Department to investigate survivors of the Gaza flotilla, who are planning to come to the U.S. for a pro-Palestine speaking tour. At the event, the Jewish Community Relations Council presented a petition with more than 23,000 signatures, which was subsequently delivered to the State Department by Congressman Eliot Engel.
But, it seems, the petition hasn't scuttled the speaking tour.
Yesterday afternoon, David Letwin—a member of the pro-Palestinian group Al-Awda, which is hosting an event with three people who were aboard the Mavi Marmara tonight in Brooklyn—told The Observer that two foreign speakers were set to arrive in the U.S. without, to his knowledge, any problems.
Kevin Ovenden, who holds a passport from the United Kingdom, was scheduled to land at J.F.K. last night, and Ahmet Faruk Unsal, a Turkish citizen, was scheduled to arrive early this morning. A third flotilla passenger—Iara Lee, who concealed video footage of the encounter in her underpants during her detainment by Israeli authorites—is an American citizen. [UPDATE: Ovenden arrived last night, without incident, Letwin confirmed by email.]
The State Department did not immediately return a call for comment, and Congressman Engel's chief of staff said he had yet to hear any response to the petition. Congressman Jerrold Nadler—one of the electeds who rallied Tuesday—also wasn't sure of the petition's status, but reiterated his concerns.
"Because of their associations with IHH, the group that sponsored the ‘Freedom Flotilla,' the individuals seeking entry to the United States should be thoroughly vetted by the State Department," Nadler said in a statement. "It is clear that some of the passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara sailed with the intent not of providing humanitarian assistance, but of attacking Israeli soldiers."
A spokesman for Congressman Ed Towns—in whose district the event will take place tonight—did not immediately return an email for comment. At least one pro-Israel group, Stand With Us, is organizing a protest across the street from the event.
Letwin said the event would take place even if the flotilla members were unexpectedly stopped on their way into the country.
"If these speakers are, for whatever reason, prevented entry we'll go on with the forum and try to build on what that would symbolize," he said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), along with one Republican and Democratic senator, introduced a bill late last week that would allow the President to effectively disconnect the internet by emergency decree.
The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act would allow the President to disconnect Internet networks and force private websites to comply with broad cybersecurity measures.
Future US presidents would have their Internet "kill switch" powers renewed indefinitely.
The bill was introduced by Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). A parallel bill was drafted last year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) which would allow the federal government to unilaterally "order the disconnection" of certain websites.
“For all of its ‘user-friendly’ allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets," Lieberman said in a release announcing his bill. "Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies -- cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.
“The need for this legislation is obvious and urgent,” the Connecticut senator added.
"We cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realises the importance of protecting our cyber resources," Sen. Collins said.
One news site notes:
The bill would give a newly-formed National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications the authority to monitor the "security status" of private websites, ISPs and other net-related business within the U.S. as well as critical internet components in other countries. Companies would be required to take part in "information sharing" with the government and certify to the NCCC that they have implemented approved security measures. Furthermore, any company that "relies on" the internet, telephone system or any other part of the U.S. "information infrastructure" would also be "subject to command" by the NCCC under the proposed new law.
Lieberman's bill would also create a cadre of cybersecurity agencies and order strategy planning with private firms. The legislation is supported by anti-virus giant Symantec.
“The Internet may have started out as a communications oddity some 40 years ago but it is now a necessity of modern life, and sadly one that is under constant attack,” Lieberman added in his release. “It must be secured... The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 is designed to bring together the disjointed efforts of multiple federal agencies and departments to prevent cyber theft, intrusions, and attacks across the federal government and the private sector. The bill would establish a clear organizational structure to lead federal efforts in safeguarding cyber networks. And it would build a public/private partnership to increase the preparedness and resiliency of those private critical infrastructure cyber networks upon which our way of life depends."
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Ships from several countries, including Iran and Lebanon, have reportedly left or are planning to leave for Hamas-controlled Gaza in defiance of an Israeli maritime blockade on that territory.
Israel considers Gaza-bound convoys a security risk because of Hamas' ongoing efforts to smuggle Iranian rockets and other weaponry into Gaza since the Iran-backed group overthrew the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup there in 2007.
Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin has been quoted as saying by the non-profit organisation, The Israel Project, that a port in Gaza would "pose a huge security threat to Israel."
Reports about the new flotillas come in the aftermath of a May 31 Israeli campaign to prevent an illegal flotilla from reaching Gaza, in which nine Turks or of Turkish descent, were killed after passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship in the convoy, were confronted by Israeli commandos.
Israel had ordered the vessels to dock in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod to unload the cargo for security inspections and subsequent delivery to Gaza. Despite the refusal of all six ships to detour to Ashdod, the Mavi Marmara was the only vessel where a violent confrontation took place.
According to The Israel Project, one Iranian ship left for Gaza June 12 from the Iranian port of Khorramshahr and plans to sail through Omani, Yemeni and Egyptian territorial waters before it tries to reach Gaza.
Simultaneously, two Iranian ships organized by Iran's Society for the Defense of Palestine are scheduled to depart shortly from the southern port of Bandar Abbas and from northern Iran.
Two Lebanese organizations - Journalists without Borders and Free Palestine - are sponsoring the Naji Al Ali, with at least 50 journalists and 25 European volunteers on board, including European parliament members.
Palestinian businessman and Free Palestine chairman Yasser Kashlak is funding the Naj Al Ali vessel, as well as an all-women's ship, the Mariam.
A U.S.-based group, the Council for the National Interest Foundation, has asked its supporters to volunteer to join the Lebanese convoy.
The Insani Yardim Vakfi, or "humanitarian relief fund" (IHH), a hardcore Turkish Islamist group that partly organized and funded the previous flotilla that included the Mavi Marmara, said it will send six more ships to Gaza in July.
A German organization called Jewish Voices for a Just Peace is sponsoring a ship with 14 activists aboard, scheduled for departure in mid-July.
Free Gaza - the group that sponsored the flotilla intercepted by Israel May 31 - and Viva Palestina, a UK-based group, are planning another convoy of 10 - 15 ships, slated to leave for Gaza by October. One of the main organizers is the Norwegian-based organisation Iyad el-Sarj. (ANI)