Obama limits ex-presidents’ discretion on records
By MARK SHERMAN
January 21, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has issued an executive order that limits the ability of former presidents to block the release of sensitive records of their time in the White House.
Obama’s action Wednesday in his first full day in office overturns an earlier order issued by George W. Bush.
Obama said former presidents may ask to have certain documents kept private, but they no longer may compel the National Archives to do so.
Obama’s executive order also makes clear that neither former vice presidents nor relatives of former presidents who have died have authority to keep records private.
Bush’s executive order, issued in November 2001, prompted a federal lawsuit and the partial invalidation of the order.
Obama Promises New Era of Openness
By Kim Zetter
January 21, 2009
Wired Blog Network Sunshine and Secrecy Category
United States President Barack Obama announced today that his administration will roll back the secrecy that has ruled during the Bush Administration and implement a new era of government openness and transparency.
Referring to the Freedom of Information Act as one of the most important tools of oversight the nation possesses, Obama called on all government agencies to err on the side of openness and release information whenever possible, which directly contradicts orders by the previous administration to look for reasons to withhold information whenever possible. Just because you have the legal right to withhold information, doesn’t mean you should, Obama said at a White House press conference and staff swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.…Continue reading
by Michael Hasty Sunday
Although I was as happy as most Americans that Barack Obama took the oath of office last week, rather than his Republican alternative, there is a major reason that he did not get my vote in November, which went instead to Cynthia McKinney: Obama is unlikely to re-open an investigation into what really happened on September 11, 2001–an investigation that needs to happen.
According to polls, about four in ten Americans are suspicious that the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks–either by deliberately ignoring intelligence that warned an attack was coming and allowing the terrorists to strike, to gain public support for the neoconservative foreign policy agenda of increasing American military power in the Middle East; or by actively coordinating the attacks themselves, for the same reason. As Time magazine, in a rare acknowledgement of the 9/11 truth movement, said: “This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality.”
It’s easy to understand, however, why a majority of Americans have such a hard time getting their minds around the idea that their government may have some involvement in such a horrendous crime. Americans are conditioned from an early age to think of themselves as “the good guys,” living in a “democracy”–which, however imperfect, has always been primarily motivated by the desire to advance the core national principle of “freedom,” both at home and abroad. And the actions of the government are closely monitored by a diligent “free press.”
It’s a… Continue reading
Originally published at RawStory.com by David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster on January 30, 2009
If you’re poor and the bank is coming for your home, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has a plan for you.
Just squat, she says.
Yes, this Ohio Democrat is actually encouraging her financially distressed constituents whose homes have been foreclosed upon, to simply stay put.
In a Friday report, CNN’s Drew Griffin explored the case of Ohioan Andrea Geiss, whose home was foreclosed upon in April.
“Behind in payments, out of work, a husband sick, she had nowhere to go,” said Griffin. “So, she decided to follow the advice of her Congresswoman and go nowhere.”
In Lucas County, Ohio, over 4,000 properties were foreclosed upon in 2008, reports CNN.
“So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes,” said Congresswoman Kaptur before the House of Representatives. “Don’t you leave.”
She’s called on all of her foreclosed-upon constituents to stay in their homes and refuse to leave without “an attorney and a fight,” said CNN.
“If they’ve had no legal representation of a high quality, I tell them stay in their homes,” Kaptur told Griffin.
Kaptur is a high-profile advocate of an increasingly popular mode of fighting foreclosures best known for it’s key phrase: “Produce the note.”
By telling a bank to “produce the note,” a homeowner can delay foreclosure by forcing the lender to prove the suing institution is actually the same which owns the debt.
“During the lending boom, most… Continue reading
Originally published at http://nafeez.blogspot.com by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed on January 26, 2009
The arrival of the Obama administration will not fundamentally alter the course of military expansion accelerated during the Bush era. The origins of these policies do not lie uniquely in neoconservative ideology. While the election of President Obama may offer new opportunities for progressive forces to delimit the damage, their space for movement will ultimately be constrained by deep-seated structural pressures that will attempt to exploit Obama to rehabilitate American imperial hegemony, rather than transform it.
Indeed, the radicalization of Anglo-American political ideology represented by the rise of neoconservative principles and the militarization processes of the ‘War on Terror’, constituted a strategic response to global systemic crises supported by the American business classes. The same classes, recognizing the extent to which the Bush era has discredited this response, have rallied around Obama. Therefore, as global crises intensify, this militarization response is likely to undergo further radicalization, rather than a meaningful change in course. The key differences will be in language and method, not substance.
Obama and National Security: “It’s the Oil, Stupid!”
This became increasingly clear as Barack Obama’s administration appointees became known — individuals whose political and ideological positions are largely commensurate with neoconservative ideals particularly on security matters, and whose social and intellectual connections link them to neo-conservative think-tanks and policy-makers.
A glance through Obama’s national security team also raises eyebrows, but we should focus on his selection of former Marine General Jim Jones as his… Continue reading
Human Rights Watch Mourns Loss of Alison Des Forges
Alison’s loss is a devastating blow not only to Human Rights Watch but also to the people of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region.
Kenneth Roth, executive director
Leading Rwanda Expert Killed in Plane Crash
February 13, 2009
(New York) – It is with enormous sadness that Human Rights Watch announces the death of our beloved colleague Dr. Alison Des Forges, who was killed in the crash of Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo on February 12, 2009. Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch’s Africa division for almost two decades, dedicated her life to working on Rwanda and was the world’s leading expert on the 1994 Rwanda genocide and its aftermath.
“Alison’s loss is a devastating blow not only to Human Rights Watch but also to the people of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “She was truly wonderful, the epitome of the human rights activist – principled, dispassionate, committed to the truth and to using that truth to protect ordinary people. She was among the first to highlight the ethnic tensions that led to the genocide, and when it happened and the world stood by and watched, Alison did everything humanly possible to save people. Then she wrote the definitive account. There was no one who knew more and did more to document the genocide and to help bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Des Forges, born in Schenectady, New… Continue reading
By Peter Phillips
The Barack Obama administration is continuing the neo-conservative agenda of US military domination of the world–albeit with perhaps a kinder-gentler face. While overt torture is now forbidden for the CIA and Pentagon, and symbolic gestures like the closing of the Guantánamo prison are in evidence, a unilateral military dominance policy, expanding military budget, and wars of occupation and aggression will likely continue unabated.
The military expansionists from within the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, G. W. Bush administrations put into place solid support for increased military spending. Clinton’s model of supporting the US military industrial complex held steady defense spending and increased foreign weapons sales from 16% of global orders to over 63% by the end of his administration.
The neo-conservatives, who dominated the most recent Bush administration, amplified this trend of increased military spending. The neo-cons laid out their agenda for military global dominance in the 2000 Project for a New American Century (PNAC) report Rebuilding America’s Defenses . The report called for the protection of the American Homeland, the ability to wage simultaneous theater wars, to perform global constabulary roles, and to control space and cyberspace. The report claimed that in order to maintain a Pax Americana , potential rivals–such as China, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea–needed to be held in check. This military global dominance agenda required forward deployment of US forces worldwide and increasing defense/war spending well into the 21st century. The result was a doubling of the US military budget to… Continue reading
by Leslie Rose
February 23, 2009
A very important case is unfolding in Minnesota–eight people are being singled out by the government for their role in the political protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC).
At the September ’08 RNC in St. Paul, war criminal John McCain and right-wing religious fundamentalist Sarah Palin were being selected as the Republican ticket for the presidential race. The national media spent endless hours on things like Palin’s unmarried pregnant daughter. Meanwhile, the streets of St. Paul were turned into a militarized zone with massive police mobilization. Over the course of four days, thousands defied the armed clampdown to make known their opposition to U.S. wars-torture-spying and the imperialist globalization that has brought suffering to a huge section of humanity and caused catastrophic environmental damage. Over 800 people were arrested and scores were brutalized by the police.
Even before the protests started, law enforcement authorities carried out preemptive raids and arrests of activists and independent journalists throughout Minneapolis/St. Paul (the Twin Cities). Among those arrested were eight who are now being targeted for persecution, facing over 12 years in prison. They are known as the RNC 8.
For the first time, a state version of the fascistic USA Patriot Act is being applied to political demonstrations. The RNC 8 are charged with felony conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism and felony conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in furtherance of terrorism, along with two other felonies. They were sitting in jail for the duration of the Republican convention–but they are being held legally responsible for anything that any protestor did during that time.
The prosecution of the RNC 8 would set a very bad precedent that criminalizes political protest. But too few people even know about this case. Everyone who understands the importance of dissent and the ability to resist the crimes being committed by the government and ruling institutions needs to speak out. A big demand to drop the charges on the RNC 8 needs to be raised from a broad cross section of society. This railroad must be stopped cold in its tracks.
In three articles over several issues of Revolution, this series examines key aspects and layers of what has come to light about the unjust prosecution of the RNC 8. The three articles are: “The Case of the RNC 8”; “The Informants and Undercover Agents”–the lies and strategy of the government; “The Clampdown”–the police state, mass arrests, and targeting of journalists.
by John Byrne
February 26, 2009
Poisonous anthrax that killed five Americans in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks doesn’t match bacteria from a flask linked to Bruce Ivins, the researcher who committed suicide after being implicated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a scientist said.
Spores used in the deadly mailings “share a chemical ‘fingerprint’ that is not found in the flask linked to Bruce Ivins,” Roberta Kwok wrote in Nature News, citing Joseph Michael, a scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Michael analyzed letters sent to the New York Post and offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, and found a distinct “chemical signature” not present in the flask known as RMR-1029, which Ivins could access in his laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
“Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin,” Kwok wrote. “Bacteria from Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements.”
The results don’t necessarily exonerate Ivins.
The mailed spores could have been removed from the flask and grown under different conditions, resulting in varying chemical contents, Jason Bannan, a microbiologist and forensic examiner at the FBI’s Chemical Biological Sciences Unit in Quantico, Virginia, told Kwok.
“It doesn’t surprise me that it would be different,” said Bannan.
The FBI has asked the National Academy of Science to perform an independent review of the… Continue reading
Originally published at 911blogger.com by Reprehensor on March 12, 2009
“There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government — in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.” – Charles Freeman.
For a one-hour introduction to the Israel Lobby; please check out this excellent Dutch documentary on the controversy that erupted following the publication of Mearsheimer and Walt’s academic paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, in its condensed form at the London Review of Books (The book which then followed is highly recommended.);
Charles Freeman’s statement as published by the Wall Street Journal (!);
Charles Freeman, a veteran diplomat slated to become the top U.S. intelligence analyst, withdrew from consideration Tuesday. He released a statement denouncing the “Israel Lobby” for “character assassination.” Here is the… Continue reading
This week, newspapers across the country will once again sponsor panel discussions, Webcasts and op-eds pushing the American ideals of a free press and citizen access to the inner workings of government.
In recognition of Sunshine Week, News graphic artist Daniel Zakroczemski has created a poster celebrating freedom of information. To download a copy of the poster, click here .
Survey Of State Government Information Online
Most Americans can easily find videos of water skiing squirrels on the Internet but they’ll have less luck finding out whether their children’s school buses and classrooms are safe, or if neighborhood gas stations are overcharging. The Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information online found that while more and more government records are being posted online, some of the most important information is being left offline. And in some cases governments are charging taxpayers to access records that they already paid for, such as death certificates. Read the report… .
For release: March 13, 2009
Federal Govt. Still Viewed as Secretive; President’s FOI Orders Get High Marks
Washington, D.C. — For the first time in four years, public opinion about government secrecy has leveled off, although more than seven in 10 adults still consider the federal government to… Continue reading
By Eliot Spitzer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Everybody is rushing to condemn AIG’s bonuses, but this simple scandal is obscuring the real disgrace at the insurance giant: Why are AIG’s counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars?
For the answer to this question, we need to go back to the very first decision to bail out AIG, made, we are told, by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, then-New York Fed official Timothy Geithner, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last fall. Post-Lehman’s collapse, they feared a systemic failure could be triggered by AIG’s inability to pay the counterparties to all the sophisticated instruments AIG had sold. And who were AIG’s trading partners? No shock here: Goldman, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and on it goes. So now we know for sure what we already surmised: The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.
It all appears, once again, to be the same insiders protecting themselves against sharing the pain and risk of their own bad adventure. The payments to AIG’s counterparties are justified with an appeal to the sanctity of contract. If AIG’s contracts turned out to be shaky, the theory goes, then the whole edifice of the… Continue reading
March 21, 2009
UN envoy Richard Falk, who wrote the foreword for David Ray Griffin’s New Pearl Harbor, and has also praised Peter Dale Scott’s book, The Road to 9/11, was yesterday quoted by Haaretz speaking out strongly against Israel’s attacks in Gaza as war crimes;
A United Nations human rights investigator said on Thursday that Israel’s offensive against Hamas in densely populated Gaza appeared to constitute a war crime of the “greatest magnitude.”
Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.
“If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law”
Falk’s assessment is bolstered by statements from IDF soldiers, recently debriefed in Tel Aviv. This was covered last night by UK’s Channel 4;
IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent – 19/03/2009
During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.
The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of… Continue reading
This week marks the beginning of the 7th year of the US war on Iraq, we’re 7-1/2 years into bombing Afghanistan, with 17,000+ more troops now headed that way thanks to the changes wrought by a new administration, and we now have US drones bombing Pakistanis at an increased rate …America is outraged, OUTRAGED, that AIG execs got $159 million (or is it now $200+ million?) of our money. Where is the outrage over the fact that we’re still spending $720 million EVERY DAY on this continuing illegal occupation of Iraq? Condoleezza Rice is again spewing nonsense : “We never tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11.” W. is on the speaking circuit (yes, seriously!) talking about his “momentous” years in the Oval Office while hundreds outside the Calgary Chamber of Commerce demand his arrest as a war criminal. Cheney is still declaring victory in Iraq and proclaiming the economy is crashing because “stuff happens .”
And while these “leaders” spin in circles convincing us it’s all necessary and for the good, soldiers and civilians keep dying, keep being wounded, keep losing their homes and any semblance of a life they remember, and ultimately, keep losing hope that this will ever end. In fact, American soldiers are losing all hope to the point they’re killing themselves (and others) in greater numbers than ever. At this point, more soldiers are committing suicide than are being killed in battle (see article below that generated this passionate outcry).
Last… Continue reading
Declassified documents show U.S. Embassy knew that Guatemalan security forces were behind wave of abductions of students and labor leaders.
National Security Archive calls for release of military files and investigation into intellectual authors of the 1984 abduction of Fernando García and other disappearances
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 273
By Kate Doyle and Jesse Franzblau
English / Español
(See many significant related postings at the source.)
Washington, DC, March 17, 2009 — Following a stunning breakthrough in a 25-year-old case of political terror in Guatemala, the National Security Archive today is posting declassified U.S. documents about the disappearance of Edgar Fernando García, a student leader and trade union activist captured by Guatemalan security forces in 1984. The documents show that García’s capture was an organized political abduction orchestrated at the highest levels of the Guatemalan government.
Guatemalan authorities made the first arrest ever in the long-dormant kidnapping case when they detained Héctor Roderico Ramírez Ríos, a senior police officer in Quezaltenango, on March 5th and retired policeman Abraham Lancerio Gómez on March 6th as a result of an investigation into García’s abduction by Guatemala’s Human Rights Prosecutor (Procurador de Derechos Humanos–PDH). Arrest warrants have been issued for two more suspects, Hugo Rolando Gómez Osorio and Alfonso Guillermo de León Marroquín. The two are former officers with the notorious Special Operations Brigade (BROE) of the National Police, a unit linked to death squad activities during the 1980s by… Continue reading
By Matt Corley
In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, host Terry Gross asked investigative journalist Seymour Hersh if, as he continues to investigate the Bush administration, “more people” were “coming forward” to talk to him now that “the president and vice president are no longer in power.” Hersh replied that though “a lot of people that had told me in the last year of Bush, ‘call me next, next February,’ not many people had talked to him. He implied that they were still scared of Cheney.
“Are you saying that you think Vice President Cheney is still having a chilling effect on people who might otherwise be coming forward,” asked Gross. “I’ll make it worse,” answered Hersh, adding that he believes Cheney “put people back” in government to “stay behind” in order to “tell him what’s going on” and perhaps even “do sabotage”:
HERSH: I’ll make it worse. I think he’s put people left. He’s put people back. They call it a stay behind. It’s sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, you’ve driven out the, you know, you’ve lost the war. You leave people behind. It’s a stay behind… Continue reading
by Dave Lindorff
For some time now, many Americans have wondered how Congress, the elected body that the nation’s Founding Fathers saw as the bulwark of liberty, could have been so thoroughly unwilling to, or incapable of challenging the dictatorial power-grabs and the eight-year Constitution wrecking campaign of the Bush/Cheney administration.
There has been speculation on both the far left and the far right, and even among some in the apolitical, cynical middle of the political spectrum, that somehow the Bush/Cheney administration must have been blackmailing at least the key members of the Congressional leadership, most likely through the use of electronic monitoring by the National Security Agency (NSA).
I’ll admit that I considered the idea of blackmail a bit far out. But now suddenly there is at least some evidence that such seemingly wild speculation may not have been off the mark, with reports that the NSA was indeed monitoring Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), and that the Bush Administration used the evidence it had obtained of her improper conversations with and promises to assist agents of the Israeli government and its lobby here in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to blackmail her into supporting the NSA’s warrantless spying program–the very kind of spying that led to her being caught on tape plotting with an agent of a foreign power.
At the time of the taping of Harman’s incriminating phone conversations, the administration was trying desperately (and ultimately successfully) to get the New York Times to hold off on publishing a shocking investigative report by journalist James Risen about a massive campaign of warrantless tapping of Americans’ phone and internet communications.…Continue reading
April 27, 2009
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) — Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday that the whereabouts of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remained a mystery and there was a suspicion that he could be dead.
Speaking to international media, Zardari said U.S. officials had told him that they had no trace of the al Qaeda chief, although they habitually say he is most likely in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s own intelligence agencies were no wiser, either, Zardari said.
“There is no news,” the president said. “They obviously feel that he does not exist anymore but that’s not confirmed, we can’t confirm that.”
Al Jazeera aired excerpts of an audio recording in March in which the speaker’s voice sounded like earlier messages from bin Laden, who has eluded all efforts to catch him since al Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Bin Laden, if he is still alive, turned 52 on March 10, but he is known to suffer from ill-health.
There have been reports that he had died of natural causes in the past, but they have never been corroborated, and security analysts believe intelligence agencies monitoring jihadi websites on the Internet would have picked up some chatter.
(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Dean Yates)
Source URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090427/ts_nm/us_pakistan_zardari_binladen
28 April 2009
by Rachel Williams
Three British Muslims were today cleared of helping the 7 July bombers choose their targets by carrying out a reconnaissance mission in London seven months before the attacks that killed 52 people and injured almost 1,000.
A jury at Kingston crown court unanimously found Waheed Ali, 25, Sadeer Saleem, 28, and Mohammed Shakil, 32, all from Beeston, Leeds, not guilty of conspiring with the four bombers to cause explosions, after deliberating for eight days.
They are the only people to be charged over the attacks in 2005, which prompted the biggest criminal investigation in British history — more than 18,450 statements were taken and at least 37,000 exhibits were collected.
Ali and Shakil were, however, convicted of conspiracy to attend a place used for terrorist training. They were about to board a flight to Pakistan when they were arrested in 2007. The pair will be sentenced tomorrow afternoon.
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, welcomed those guilty verdicts, which she said “clearly demonstrated the determined stance the UK takes against those suspected of involvement in terrorism”.
As the verdicts were read out, Ali smiled broadly, Saleem wiped his eyes and Shakil leant forward, mouthing “thank you” to the jury. The trio had been retried after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges relating to the 7 July attacks last year after about three weeks of deliberations.
Survivors of the attacks and family members of those who died said today’s verdicts strengthened the case for an independent inquiry into the bombings.…Continue reading