FBI Established Saudi Task Force Just before Joint Inquiry Release

The House Intelligence Committee just released the 28 pages detailing Saudi involvement in 9/11.

The pages are actually more damning than I expected. It lays out many damning details we already knew of: including that Bandar bin Sultan’s wife was providing money to one of the suspect Saudi intelligence people, several Saudi apparent agents provided support for the hijackers, and an apparent dry run for the attack was conducted by someone paid by the Saudis.

One really damning detail that I didn’t know, however (or had forgotten if covered in Bob Graham’s book), is that it wasn’t until the Joint Inquiry focused on the Saudis that FBI established task force to look into Saudi Arabia’s role in the attack.

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That means over a year elapsed before the FBI really started investigating this angle. It goes on to reveal FBI was not focusing any counterintelligence resources on Saudis before 9/11, because “FBI received ‘no reporting from any member of the Intelligence Community’ that there was a [redacted] presence in the United States.” A very heavily redacted passage implies that’s because they were an “ally” [scare quotes original].

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It goes on to note that CIA did have records of such ties (we knew that); it makes no mention of NSA, though they knew of Saudi ties as well.

The report even reveals that Robert Mueller learned about the Saudi role in the attack from the Joint Inquiry:

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This is fairly unbelievable, but all too believable.

The end of the report provides multiple reports of Saudi refusal to cooperate in the investigation.

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I’m particularly interested in the detail that they demanded information that would show sources and methods. I know that the Saudis had notice of Stellar Wind well before it got exposed in 2005. That means they were getting tips on what we knew even as refusing to tell what they knew.

Between that and the failure to investigate, it explains how the Saudis could get away with assisting an attack on the US.

Update: Kristin Breitweiser rightly rails on mainstream coverage of the report that dismiss the seriousness of the allegations in the report.

When CIA Director John Brennan states that he believes the 29 pages prove that the government of Saudi Arabia had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks, recognize that John Brennan is not a man living in reality — he is delusional by design, feeding and protecting his Saudi vice.

When Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Anne W. Patterson, testifies — under oath — that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an ally that does everything they can to help us fight against Islamic terrorism, recognize that her deep, steep Saudi pandering serves and protects only her Saudi vice.

Read the 29 pages and know the facts.

Do not let any person in our government deny the damning reality of the 29 pages.

And as you read the 29 pages remember that they were written during 2002 and 2003.

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Tom Brady Taps Out of Deflategate and Other Trash Talk

Just posted a few minutes ago on Tom Brady’s Facebook page:

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Frankly, I am stunned. From the jump, Brady seemed to be a guy that would fight to the bitter end because he truly believed he was innocent and that the conduct of Roger Goodell and the NFL was dishonest and oppressive. And, frankly, every bit of research and evaluation of the case indicates that is exactly the case. My early analysis, which I still believe holds up nearly 100% is here. I touched significantly on why the Deflategate litigation was critical not just to Tom Brady, but to all organized labor operating ind a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). That is quite so, and the NFLPA has already indicated they may – may – continue on as a union to litigate this issue. We shall see, though they will be weakened without Brady being involved.

Having said that I am completely stunned Brady has tapped out, there are cognizable reasons for it. His best shot of success was with his petition for wn banc review in the 2nd Circuit, but that was denied Wednesday morning. To go further, Brady would have to file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court and seek to obtain a stay of his suspension while the cert petition was processed. That would have been a tall order. The first stop would have beed the 2nd Circuit itself, which just dumped him, and then with Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the assigned Circuit Justice for the 2nd Circuit, and lastly to the full SCOTUS (which is not even in session currently).

I have a couple of sports law attorney friends I have found along the Deflategate way that thought Brady had a shot at a stay, maybe even odds as good as 50%. I thought that was probably entirely too optimistic, and not we will never know as the NFLPA does not have any need for a stay without Brady’s suspension hanging in the mix.

Just spitballing here, but I am going to guess that Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft and the interests of the team were the deciding factor for Brady, and not the thin odds. You see, even if Brady had been granted a stay, unless the Supremes granted cert, there is a real chance that the four game suspension rears its ugly head again at the end of the season and/or even the playoffs. If the Patriots are going to lose Tom Brady, it is far better that it be in the first four games, most of which they may have a decent shot at winning even without Brady, than have it be at the end of the year or playoffs. Nathaniel Grow at Sports Law Blog has a good discussion of the timing issue it Brady had actually obtained a a stay. So, dollar to donuts, this was not just the deciding factor, but the only real factor. Money was never an issue.

Just so you know, the Pats open here in Arizona against the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football on NBC, and then are at home in Foxborough against the the Dolphins, Texans and Bills. They can win some, if not most, of those games with Jimmy G at QB.

So, there you go, Deflategate comes to an ignominious end, at least as to Tom Brady. But there are other sports issues in the air, not to mention a boatload of politics and other matters. So feel free to use this thread as an open forum.

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Friday: Teh Stoopid, Still Burns [UPDATE-2]

Teh stoopid. So much, a bumper crop today. Put on your hip waders while we listen to a little ska-jazz from The Specials. [Go to bottom of post for update.]

LAST DAY OF THE MONTH
Don’t stand in front of the exit doors today at the House of Representatives. You’ve been warned.

Toobz filled with stoopid

Hélas, Nice
I’ve not forgotten Nice. I can’t go there. Picking my way through French language news to read in detail about the deaths of children and teenagers is a hard limit for me. With children’s blood on its hands from wars to drone killings, the U.S. has no moral authority here. It has doubled down on its authoritarian, racist, kill-its-way-out-of-trouble approach to foreign policy. What can I write here which isn’t utter hypocrisy?

The only observations I can make are that the attackers may be ramping up, as the numbers and methodology testify. 84 dead including 10 children and teens, 52 injured and 25 on life support, all hurt or killed by a driver who was not a known terror suspect. A civilian stopped the attacker by grabbing his hands as he aimed a gun at human targets. Que Dieu soit miséricordieux sur Nice.

Smarter, kinder finish
And now to purge the taste of stupid before I start my weekend…

That’s a wrap, have a safe and restful weekend, including all you peeps at #NN16. Back at it on Monday.

UPDATE — 2:50 p.m. EDT —

The previously-classified pages of the 9/11 report have been released, conveniently during the afternoon on a Friday smack in the middle of the summer during a general election year. Can you say ‘news dump’? Here’s a link to the document at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s site (pdf). Knock yourselves out with this beach read. Note the bit about the alleged Saudi intelligence officers, too.

UPDATE — 5:15 p.m. EDT —

An apparent coup is underway in Turkey; it began with reports of militarized road blocks about two hours ago. Social media platforms have had spotty service though landlines appear to be working. The Erdogan government initially denied a coup was in progress; media outlets in Turkey may not be accurately reporting events. Many European news outlets are still focused on Nice, France. Airports have been closed and a curfew declared. U.S. Embassy has asked U.S. citizens to shelter in place and stay indoors.

For more information about events in Turkey, here’s a selection of active Twitter feeds:
https://twitter.com/YourAnonNews
https://twitter.com/efekerem
https://twitter.com/zeynep
https://twitter.com/WashingtonPoint
https://twitter.com/Boutaina

Recent report at Aid works about Turkey’s treatment of refugees at this link.

If you have friends and family in Turkey, recommend they use Tor browser to follow news — this link in case Tor is blocked. See also this tweet from Tor about accessing social media.

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Thursday: Bad Girls

One thing before I go any further…look just above these words, below this post’s title and to the right of the date of publication. See the name ‘Rayne’? That’s me, that’s my byline. Please note there are multiple contributors here at emptywheel. The entire site is eponymously named for its owner, Marcy Wheeler, whose online name and byline is the same as this blog. Check the byline on our posts if you haven’t done so in the past. You’ll note we have different voices and opinions, different writing styles. I tend to be the most open about my dislike for what the Republican Party has become since 1978, when I last toyed with being Republican. Marcy and the rest of the crew tend to be more generous or less open in their vituperation. Take note of the byline when when you read and comment, thanks.

Still indulging in female artist K-pop, choosing this video for a very specific reason…

TWO DAYS
That’s it, what’s left of today and all day tomorrow — that’s all the U.S. House will be in session for July. Outstanding job this week trashing the EPA with bullshit riders, GOP members. Way to fucking go with extending your run serving corporations ahead of the people.

Tick-tock.

BAD GIRL (UK edition)
After today’s wash list of badness, I can hardly wait to hear what comes of May’s visit on Friday to Scotland.

BAD GIRL (domestic edition)

PokéGone
The list of accidents resulting from distraction by Pokémon GO grows by leaps and bounds. These are among the worst so far. Just a matter of time before a fatality occurs.

Wheels

Keep an eye on this topic

Catch you tomorrow for the last in-session day in U.S. House.

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Wednesday: Dumb Dumb [UPDATE]

Let’s change the pace today with some K-pop — a little hyper-upbeat Korean pop music influenced by hip hop. You may already be familiar with K-pop if you are familiar with insanely popular tune Gagnam Style by the artist Psy, released in 2012. But K-pop isn’t just male artists like GOT7, Shinhwa, and BIGBANG. There are quite a few all-female groups like Red Velvet featured here, Girls’ Generation, Orange Caramel, and Girls’ Day. Americans may find a retro feel to female K-pop artists’ work, not only in content and performance, but production and presentation. They make hard work look like joy. For all the visual and audio effects, there are simple, unifying messages — love is everything, and girls just want to have fun.

So much that. We could really use some love and some fun.

THREE DAYS
*head-desk* Including today, that’s all the House will spend in session this month. Flint’s 8000 lead-poisoned kids still wait.

Carla Hayden, nominee for Librarian of Congress also waits. Some chickenshit anonymous Republican senator(s) have placed a hold on her confirmation. Why? Because she’s black. Swear to gods the GOP wants to become an irrelevant footnote in history; they certainly won’t win over minority voters this way, and they’re pissing off the publishing industry at the same time. UPDATE 5:00 P.M. EST — HAYDEN CONFIRMED Huh. Wonder what clued in the chickenshit anonymous Republican senator(s) who’d placed her on hold? Whatever, now the GOP can go back to focusing their normal obstructive intransigence on SCOTUS’ nominee Merrick Garland.

Don’t forget about China

Civil rights wronged

  • Cruel and unusual punishment continues on Rikers Island after four extensions granted for reforms (Village Voice) — Youths 18-21-years-old including some who are mentally ill remain locked up in solitary confinement. The glacial pace of reforms is repugnant, maintaining worse than third-world treatment. Fix this horror and quit dragging your feet, New York. You’re making this entire country look bad and worse.
  • Black ex-cop offers detailed analysis of race and policing (Vox) — One key problem is the propensity for 70% of police to cave into pressure from the 15% of cops who are outrageous racists — like the Milgram experiment run amok. Racists should be identified and removed from leadership positions; police departments must have open dialog about social pressure and expectations of ethical behavior in policing.

Breakit

Cyber-oddments

Okay, that’s quite enough self-abuse for one day. It’s downhill from here, see you tomorrow!

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On The Passing of David Margolis, the DOJ Institution

david-margolis-250David Margolis was a living legend and giant at the Department of Justice. Now he has passed. Just posted is the following from DOJ:

Statements From Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates on the Passing of Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates released the following statements today on the passing of Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, senior-most career employee at the Department of Justice.

Statement by Attorney General Lynch:

“David Margolis was a dedicated law enforcement officer and a consummate public servant who served the Department of Justice – and the American people – with unmatched devotion, remarkable skill and evident pride for more than half a century. From his earliest days as a hard-charging young prosecutor with a singular sense of style to his long tenure as one of the department’s senior leaders, David took on our nation’s most pressing issues and navigated our government’s most complex challenges. To generations of Justice Department employees, he was a respected colleague, a trusted advisor and most importantly, a beloved friend. We are heartbroken at his loss and he will be deeply missed. My thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, his friends and all who loved him.”

Statement by Deputy Attorney General Yates:

“David Margolis was the personification of all that is good about the Department of Justice. His dedication to our mission knew no bounds, and his judgment, wisdom and tenacity made him the “go-to” guy for department leaders for over 50 years. David was a good and loyal friend to all of us, and his loss leaves a gaping hole in the department and in our hearts.”

I am sure Mr. Margolis was a kind, personable and decent chap to those who knew and worked with him. I can be sure because there have been many voices I know who have related exactly that. He was undoubtedly a good family man and pillar of his community. None of that is hard to believe, indeed, it is easy to believe.

Sally Yates is spot on when she says Margolis’ “dedication to our [DOJ] mission knew no bounds”. That is not necessarily in a good way though, and Margolis was far from the the “personification of all that is good about the Department of Justice”. Mr. Margolis may have been such internally at the Department, but it is far less than clear he is really all that to the public and citizenry the Department is designed to serve. Indeed there is a pretty long record Mr. Margolis consistently not only frustrated accountability for DOJ malfeasance, but was the hand which guided and ingrained the craven protection of any and all DOJ attorneys for accountability, no matter how deeply they defiled the arc of justice.

This is no small matter. When DOJ Inspectors General go to Congress to decry the fact that there is an internal protection racket within the Department of Justice shielding even the worst wrongs by Department attorneys, as IG Glen Fine did:

Second, the current limitation on the DOJ OIG’s jurisdiction prevents the OIG – which by statute operates independent of the agency – from investigating an entire class of misconduct allegations involving DOJ attorneys’ actions, and instead assigns this responsibility to OPR, which is not statutorily independent and reports directly to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. In effect, the limitation on the OIG’s jurisdiction creates a conflict of interest and contravenes the rationale for establishing independent Inspectors General throughout the government. It also permits an Attorney General to assign an investigation raising questions about his conduct or the conduct of his senior staff to OPR, an entity reporting to and supervised by the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General and lacking the insulation and independence guaranteed by the IG Act.

This concern is not merely hypothetical. Recently, the Attorney General directed OPR to investigate aspects of the removal of U.S. Attorneys. In essence, the Attorney General assigned OPR – an entity that does not have statutory independence and reports directly to the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General – to investigate a matter involving the Attorney General’s and the Deputy Attorney General’s conduct. The IG Act created OIGs to avoid this type of conflict of interest. It created statutorily independent offices to investigate allegations of misconduct throughout the entire agency, including actions of agency leaders. All other federal agencies operate this way, and the DOJ should also.

Third, while the OIG operates transparently, OPR does not. The OIG publicly releases its reports on matters of public interest, with the facts and analysis underlying our conclusions available for review. In contrast, OPR operates in secret. Its reports, even when they examine matters of significant public interest, are not publicly released.

Said fact and heinous lack of accountability for Justice Department attorneys, not just in Washington, but across the country and territories, is largely because of, and jealously ingrained by, David Margolis. What Glen Fine was testifying about is the fact there is no independent regulation and accountability for DOJ attorneys.

They are generally excluded from the Department IG purview of authority, and it is rare, if ever, courts or state bar authorities will formally review DOJ attorneys without going throughout the filter of the OPR – the Office of Professional Responsibility – within the Department. A protection racket designed and jealously guarded for decades by David Margolis. Even when cases were found egregious enough to be referred out of OPR, they went to…..David Margolis.

In fact, attuned people literally called the OPR the “Roach Motel”:

“I used to call it the Roach Motel of the Justice Department,” says Fordham University law professor Bruce A. Green, a former federal prosecutor and ethics committee co-chair for the ABA Criminal Justice Section. “Cases check in, but they don’t check out.”

If you want a solid history of OPR, and the malfeasance it and Margolis have cravenly protected going back well over a decade, please go read “The Roach Motel”, a 2009 article in no less an authority than the American Bar Association Journal. It is a stunning and damning report. It is hard to describe just how much this one man, David Margolis, has frustrated public transparency and accountability into the Justice Department that supposedly works for the citizens of the United States. It is astounding really.

As I wrote back in 2010:

But just as there is an inherent conflict in the DOJ’s use of the fiction of the OPR to police itself, so too does David Margolis have issues giving the distinct appearance of impropriety. Who and what is David Margolis? A definitive look at the man was made by the National Law Journal (subscription required):

“Taking him on is a losing battle,” says the source. “The guy is Yoda. Nobody fucks with the guy.”
….
Margolis cut his teeth as an organized-crime prosecutor, and he often uses mob analogies in talking about his career at the Justice Department. When asked by an incoming attorney general what his job duties entailed, Margolis responded: “I’m the department’s cleaner. I clean up messes.”

The analogy calls to mind the character of Winston Wolfe, played by Harvey Keitel in the 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.” In the movie, Wolfe is called in by mob honchos to dispose of the evidence after two foot soldiers accidentally kill a murder witness in the back of their car.

“The Cleaner” Mr. Margolis considered himself, while fastidiously sanitizing gross malfeasance and misconduct by DOJ attorneys, all the while denying the American public the disinfectant of sunshine and transparency they deserve from their public servants (good discussion by Marcy, also from 2010).

Perhaps no single incident epitomized Margolis’ determination to be the “cleaner” for the Department of Justice and keep their dirt from public scrutiny and accountability than the case of John Yoo (and to similar extent, now lifetime federal judge Jay Bybee). Yoo as you may recall was the enlightened American who formally opinedcrushing innocent children’s testicles would be acceptable conduct for the United States to engage in. Yoo and Bybee, by their gross adoption of torture, literally personally soiled the reputation of the United States as detrimentally as any men in history.

So, what did David Margolis do in response to the heinous legal banality of evil John Yoo and Jay Bybee engendered in our name? Margolis cleaned it up. He sanitized it. Rationalized it. Ratified it. Hid it. To such an extent architects of such heinous war crimes are now lifetime appointed federal judges and tenured professors. Because that is what “The Cleaner” David Margolis did. “Protecting” the DOJ from accountability, at all costs, even from crimes against humanity, was simply the life goal of David Margolis, and he was depressingly successful at it.

So, less than 24 hours in to the passing of The Cleaner, is it too early to engage in this criticism? Clearly other career officials at the DOJ think discussing the pernicious effects of Margolis on accountability and transparency are out of bounds.

I wonder what the late Senator Ted Stevens would say in response to the “too soon” mandate of Steven Bressler? Because thanks to the efforts of The Cleaner Margolis, Stevens died without the public knowing what an unethical and craven, if not downright criminal, witch hunt attorneys in the Department of Justice ran on him. Even after Stevens was long gone from office and dead, there was Margolis “cleaning” it all up to protect his precious Justice Department when even the internal OPR found gross misconduct:

Following the Justice Department’s agreement in 2009 to vacate the convictions it obtained of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, it conducted an internal probe into the conduct of its senior lawyers and—surprise!—exonerated them and itself. It then refused to make the report public. However, at the time the conviction was voided, the presiding judge in Stevens’s case, Emmet Sullivan, appropriately wary of the department’s ethics office, appointed a special prosecutor, Henry F. Schuelke, III, an eminent Washington attorney and former prosecutor, to probe the DOJ’s conduct. Late last week, Schuelke’s 525-page report was released, over the loud objections of DOJ lawyers. The report revealed gross misconduct by the prosecutorial team, stretching over the entire course of the case and reaching into the upper echelons of the department. It concluded there had been “systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated [Stevens’s] defense.”

Having laid out the above bill of particulars as to David Margolis, I’d like to return to where we started. As I said in the intro, “I am sure Mr. Margolis was a kind, personable and decent chap”. That was not cheap rhetoric, from all I can discern, both from reading accounts and talking to people who knew Mr. Margolis well, he was exactly that. Ellen Nakashima did a fantastic review of Margolis in the Washington Post last year. And, let’s be honest, the man she described is a guy you would love to know, work with and be around. I know I would. David Margolis was a man dedicated. And an incredibly significant man, even if few in the public understood it.

Say what you will, but Mr. Margolis was truly a giant. While I have no issue delineating what appear to be quite pernicious effects of David Margolis’ gargantuan footprint on the lack of accountability of the Department of Justice to the American citizenry, I have some real abiding respect for what, and who, he was as a man. Seriously, read the Nakashima article and tell me David Margolis is not a man you would love to kill some serious beers with by a peaceful lake somewhere.

But David Margolis, both the good and the bad, is gone now. Where will his legacy live? One of our very longtime friends here at Emptywheel, Avattoir, eruditely said just yesterday:

Focus instead on the institution, not the players. The players are just data points, hopefully leading to greater understanding of the institutional realities.

Those words were literally the first I thought of yesterday when I received the phone call David Margolis had passed. They are true and important words that I, and all, need to take heed of more frequently.

David Margolis, it turns out from all appearances and reports, was a complex man. Clearly great, and clearly detrimental, edges to him. So what will his legacy be at the Department of Justice? Will the closing of the Margolis era, and it was truly that, finally bring the institution of the Department into a modern and appropriate light of transparency, accountability and sunshine?

Or will the dirty deeds of David Margolis’ historical ratification and concealment of pervasive and gross misconduct by Department of Justice attorneys become permanently enshrined as a living legacy to the man?

We shall see.

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Key Area of Dispute on Drone Numbers: Number of Strikes

Dianne Feinstein is out with a statement applauding that I Con the Record has released drone kill numbers that — she suggests — proves the spooks know something we don’t and that the number of civilian casualties hasn’t been that high.

“I want to commend the administration for taking this important step toward transparency by releasing information on the number of civilian deaths as a result of U.S. drone strikes. I believe more can be done, but this release of data is a good start.

“I’ve been calling on the administration to release drone strike data for years. Varying numbers have been tallied by outside organizations but as today’s report makes clear, the government has access to unique information to help determine the number of civilian deaths. The American people should be able to weigh the necessity of counterterrorism programs with as much information as possible.

“I do believe that great care is taken to avoid noncombatant casualties during drone strike operations. Since 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee has devoted significant time and attention to targeted strikes by drones, with a specific focus on civilian casualties.

“While a single civilian death is one too many, I believe this program is more precise than many alternatives such as strikes with cruise missiles, where far more civilians would be at risk.”

A fair response to Feinstein, I think, is to point to this piece from the Human Rights Watch researcher who tallied their count of civilian deaths in Yemen. As she notes, counting just the cases she has investigated on the ground would say there were only 7 other civilian casualties later in Yemen and in other theaters.

The US strikes on Al-Majalah in December 2009 killed 14 fighters with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—but they also killed 41 Bedouin civilians, more than two-thirds of them women and children, according to a Yemeni government probe. In an investigation for Human Rights Watch, I tallied the same toll. Yet the US government has never publicly acknowledged the Al-Majalah killings. Instead, two classified diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks revealed, the Obama administration made a concerted effort to conceal its role in the attack.

The White House release on July 1 of casualty figures for airstrikes outside conventional war zones since 2009 should have shed light on how many civilians were killed in attacks such as the one in Al-Majalah. Instead, its data dump, at the start of a holiday weekend, continues President Barack Obama’s obfuscation of its lethal strike program against armed groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Even if the government’s definition of a “combatant” were fully consistent with international law, which only applies to armed conflict situations, the release raises more questions than it answers.

[snip]

Did the US kill only 7 civilians in 466 strikes? In 2012-13, I led Human Rights Watch investigations into seven of the US counterterrorism strikes in Yemen from 2009 to 2013 that were alleged to have killed civilians. We visited strike sites when possible, examined the remnants of ordnance, and interviewed a range of witnesses, relatives, tribal leaders and Yemeni officials—corroborating our findings in ways that the DNI cannot simply dismiss. We found that at least 57 of those killed were civilians, along with possibly 14 others, 12 of them in a strike on a wedding convoy. Subtracting our numbers from the DNI’s minimum estimates leaves only seven civilian deaths in the 466 strikes that we did not investigate. That would be a remarkably low toll. But based on the obscure data the Obama administration revealed last week, we cannot know if it is accurate.

Viewed this way, it’s easy to see how ODNI’s numbers cannot add up. There must be some more basic reason their numbers are so different from every other outlet, having to do with methodology or scope. I’ve pointed to some potential explanations: CIA didn’t hand over all their numbers to ODNI, they didn’t include everything we’d include in terms of areas outside active hostilities, some strikes (and the al-Majalah one would be a likely candidate) were attributed to either the home country or some other ally (cough, KSA), even if the US conducted the strike; remember the US did a lot of “side payment” strikes in Pakistan to win the right to do our own strikes.

In other words, if “side payment” strikes — in Pakistan and Yemen (some of the latter of which may have been done for Saudi Arabia) — were the ones that killed a bunch of civilians, they might not show up in I Con the Record’s numbers.

But here’s how it would seem we could move forward: try to come to some agreement as to how many actual strikes are.

As Micah Zenko pointed out, there is a very big discrepancy between the numbers of total strikes counted by NGOs and the government. Effectively, the Administration doesn’t count 18% of the known air strikes as their own (based off the NGO average).

It’s easy to see where a disagreement about individual casualties, and of what type, would come from, but not of airstrikes themselves. Unless airstrikes generally assumed to be US airstrikes are being counted as someone else’s.

Update: Fixed that Yemen would be the recipient of side payment strikes, not Saudi Arabia.

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Tuesday: Trauma

A little neo soul, something to ease the day. If you like this bit by 20-year-old Doja Cat, check out more of her work at her YouTube channel.

FOUR DAYS
That’s all that’s left of in-session days in U.S. House this month, and nothing done yesterday to help Flint. Yet another report on Flint water crisis, this one featuring VA-Tech’s Dr. Marc Edwards on the lack of trust in water quality, governance and water science since the city’s transition back to Detroit’s water supply. But the necessity of filters means tap water is suspect; Flint residents never needed filters before the switch to Flint river water, and now much regularly take additional steps to check their filters and water quality. Just replace the damned lead pipes so they can take the filters off and they’ll trust the water system. They need assistance with speeding up pipe replacement, stat.

Oh, and deal with the collapse of property values in Flint. Who wants to buy a house there, let alone offer financing as long as the water system remains under suspicion?

Oh no, Pokémon GO
My kid has been playing this augmented reality game with his friends, driving around after dark to different ‘gyms’. We’ve had a few discussions about the application’s privacy problems as well as the game’s requirements for collecting points. This is NOT a game for kids to play by themselves without parent or guardian engagement if they aren’t old enough to drive. My son told me about running into creepy guys parked for hours late into the evening at key locations where Pokémon are found. Recipe for trouble, that.

Brexit means broken

TL;BRTLA (too long, but read this later anyhow)
Especially today — now that Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton — read how women were included in the Civil Rights Act as a joke. Hah. Funny. But very sad that 51% of the population is still not accorded their creator-endowed equal rights in spite of shrewd, dogged work by Michigan’s Rep. Martha Griffiths, and folks like Ida Phillips and attorney Reese Marshall.

Didn’t have enough time to cover China. Guess you now what I’ll tackle tomorrow, see you then.

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Security, Territory and Population Part 1: Introduction

Security, Territory and Population is a collection of lectures given by the French thinker Michel Foucault at the College of France in 1977-8. Foucault describes the lectures as a work of philosophy, defined as “the politics of truth” (p. 3), a term which itself seems to require a definition. This creates two difficult problems for the reader. First, philosophy is hard. It involves carefully picking things apart, examining each element, putting the pieces back together, and then picking them apart from some other perspective, examining the new set of pieces and reassembling. It’s hard work, and it makes for difficult reading.

Second, these are lectures, not a polished work prepared for publication with the aid of editors and the time it takes to smooth out analysis. Foucault says that these lectures are part of a long program of study, of which other books and sets of lectures are parts. The earlier books include Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality for certain, and others as well. These are polished works, and they give an idea of the general program.

In this book, Foucault wants to talk about what he calls “bio-power” which he describes as “… the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object ofa political strategy, of a general strategy of power….” Note that I did not use the word “define”, but the word describe. We should understand this book and The Birth of Bio-Power which I plan to take up next, as tentative explorations, and not as a formal philosophical explication.

I haven’t written about Discipline and Punish or The History of Sexuality (except briefly), but I don’t think that will be a problem. The last three books I’ve written about, The Great Transformation, The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Theory of Business Enterprise, raise a similar set of issues. In each one of these books, we saw a massive change in the lives of the working people in Western Europe and the US beginning with the Industrial Revolution. These changes have produced amazing wealth for a few people, and have completely revamped the day-to-day lives of the vast group of working people. How exactly did these changes happen? Was there some great clamor for 12 hour work days in deep-pit mines? Did working people spontaneously decide to put their children to work in spinning mills at the age of 8? Was the demand for coal and cheap shirts so great that these things seemed like fair exchanges to the people whose lives were affected?

Polanyi seems to suggest that the changes were driven by economic duress both from the early capitalists and from the government. Arendt talks about the collapse of earlier social structure, and a combination of economic insecurity and random violence coupled with an appeal to nationalism and scape-goating of the Jews. Veblen doesn’t directly discuss the mechanisms of change but he does say that the industrial age demanded new structures to achieve maximum efficiency. Polanyi says that society resists these massive changes, and Veblen seems to agree. Arendt says that the people can be changed by a combination of force and rhetoric. I realize these are gross simplifications, but they are offered to show that these writers lead us to the problem Foucault wants to talk about. Foucault says that he is not interested in a theory of power, but that his investigations have the potential to expand into a discussion of major social trends.

Third, the analysis of these power relations may, of course, open onto or initiate something like the overall analysis of a society. The analysis of mechanisms of power may also join up with the history of economic transformations, for example. P. 2.

Human beings are a species, and in large groups can be understood and manipulated by those who have studied the species. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault gives us an early example:

[T]he ideas of crime and punishment must be strongly linked and ‘… follow one another without interruption…. When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters.’ Foucault, Discipline and Punish, at 102, quoting J. M. Servan, Discours sur l’administration de la justice criminelle, 1767.

It reads just like Ivan Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning. We are much more refined than that now, of course. Almost every day we read a new theory about ourselves as a species. These insights are used by business to boost sales, by politicians to gain their own ends, and by each of us for our own purposes. For some of us, it is enough to know that. For Foucault, it was a signal that we need to think more clearly about power.

One good question might be, how did neoliberalism become the dominant discourse, not just of general societal power but of control over the self. Freedom is the most important thing in neoliberal rhetoric, but if we have to work to live, how free are we? If we have to take whatever is on offer as wages and employment, how free are we? People have internalized neoliberalism as a tool of self-discipline, and at such a deep level that they cannot even recognize it as an ideology. They think it is the natural way life should be, and anyone who questions it is anathema. This leads us to think about governmentality, which I discussed very briefly here, and which Foucault discusses in some detail in this book.

I believe that theory is important. The right wing is winning because so many people believe in neoliberalism, including a large number of Democrats. Kuhn points out that scientists can’t even do analysis without a theory with which to understand the observations they are making. I don’t think theories about societies or individual human behavior can ever have the kind of certainty we can get in the physical sciences, because as humans, any theory becomes an object of study and then of change. Even so, we can’t understand our society without some kind of theory. Foucault says that philosophy is about the politics of truth. Is neoliberalism a truth? What are the points about it where we can push back against the idea that it is a truth? Identifying those points is one of the goals of this series of lectures and of the next set, collected as The Birth of Bio-Politics.

In this post, I suggested the beginnings of a theory for the left. The same kind of analysis can and should be applied to that proposal. But that’s for the future. As I work my way through these books, I will try to remember that every proposal has points of struggle, as Foucault calls them, points that are contested. Let’s start with the recognition that for many people, neoliberalism has successfully concealed the points of struggle from the people whose minds it has colonized.

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Monday: Gotta’ Catch ‘Em All

[NB: Embedded video contains adult language NSFW]

I had a very disturbing conversation with some 18-to-20-somethings this weekend about privacy and networked communications. I can’t decide if I’m pissed off or terrified that these particular youngsters believed:

  • Most young people their age don’t care if their privacy has been compromised;
  • If they care at all, they believe it’s not a big deal, there’s little danger because they can just shut off the GPS/location and voice features on their phones;
  • This is the way it is with technology and there’s no way to change the status quo.

I know for certain not all youngsters in this age group feel this way, but what set this particular group apart is their privilege. They are going to school in business and education at some of the best schools in the country. Their educations are paid for in full and they know they have jobs waiting for them. Their political heritage is conservative — anti-tax, pro-business, with a Christian fundamentalist spin. They are the next generation of elected officials because they can afford to run for office.

They are what a well-to-do public school district created, and what will come out of a top ten business school: people who don’t give a shit about anybody else’s needs for privacy, because they simply don’t see any risks to their way of life.

The entire conversation began because they were questioning my opsec habit of covering my cellphone camera lenses. When I pushed back about their habit of waving their phones around without any respect for others’ privacy, the topic rapidly went south. It didn’t matter, nobody was following them, they didn’t need to worry; whoever wanted to track them already had all their information anyhow. And still not a lick of concern about anybody else’s privacy, safety and security, free speech, freedom from unwarranted seizure…

And now comes Pokémon Go, the augmented reality mobile device game which this particular cohort had yet to play with on their cellphones. I’m sure they’ve since loaded on their phones without a second thought about the gross failure of Pokémon Go’s privacy policy let alone its ridiculously broad request for device permissions.

Stay away from me, kids. Far, far away. Go ahead and give me a hard time again about protecting privacy rights. Treat me like an old lady yelling at you to stay off my lawn, and I’ll find somebody to tell your super-conservative mother what kind of porn you’ve surfed while you claim you’re at the library studying on her dime. I’m sure I can get somebody to do it for the price of a Pokéstop lure and a Clefairy water Pokémon.

Meanwhile, protesters documenting civil rights abuses by hyper-militarized police have risked their freedom and lives doing so. Like the protesters and reporters seen in the short video taken of Baton Rouge Police arresting protesters gathered peacefully on private property yesterday, forcing their way into a private home and pushing around its residents. Or Ramsey Orta, who videoed the chokehold death of Eric Garner, harassed repeatedly by NYPD since then and jailed, or Chris LeDay’s suspicious arrest after he posted video of Alton Sterling’s murder by Baton Rouge police. These citizens and the journalists who covered them are surely concerned about their privacy and the chilling effect on their free speech a lack of privacy protections will cause for them as individuals and as activist groups and news outlets.

And it’s these people those privileged 18-to-20-somethings I spoke with will never consider as they navigate their way through the rest of college and into the business world. It’s no wonder they believe there’s no way to change the status quo; they aren’t taught to think outside the tight confines of their safe little world nor do they face any threats inside their narrow groove.

I grieve for the future.

FIVE DAYS
That’s all that’s left for in-session days on the U.S. House calendar for July. I see nothing in the remaining schedule directly related to the Flint Water Crisis. Only California’s ongoing water shortage will have a hearing. While the House fiddles, Flint area nonprofits continue to raise money to buy bottled water for city residents. The city water system is allegedly safe, but we all know the entire city is riddled with damaged pipe causing one Boil Water Notice so far this summer. Lead pipes continue to service homes. The roughly 8000 children poisoned so far don’t need even a smidgen more lead from those water lines. But All Lives Matter, right?

I hope every journalist covering an incumbent’s House or Senate campaign will ask what the candidate has done while in office to address both Flint’s GOP-inflicted man-made catastrophe and future crises of a similar nature given underfunded EPA mandates for clean drinking water and equally underfunded infrastructure replacement.

Don’t even get me started on Congress’ weak gestures on Zika, especially after the first Zika-related death in the U.S. this past week and ~1133 patients who’ve tested positive for Zika, including ~320 pregnant women. Zero effort to encourage birth control among at-risk population, let alone adequate warning to the public that unprotected sex as well as mosquitoes spread the disease.

Po po no no

  • Suspect fires on Houston police during 7-hour showdown; SWAT team subdues him using gas (KTRK) — Look, ma, no deadly force! Gee, I wonder what the suspect’s race/ethnicity is?
  • Tiny study without peer review based on unreliable data claims whites shot as often as blacks by police (NYT) — Harvard researcher looked at 1,332 shootings by 10 police departments in Florida, Texas, and California across fifteen years to come up with this swagged conclusion. There was so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. Even the lead researcher’s personal experience suggests there’s a problem with the data. The New York Times simply regurgitates this without any push back. After all the video evidence we’ve seen since Ferguson, should we really believe police-supplied data from such a small sample of nearly 18,000 police departments? We really need a mandatory collection of data from all police departments based on standardized methods combined with an audit. There’s more accountability in banking than there is in police use of force — and we all know how that turned out after 2008’s crash.
  • Dallas shooter was ‘changed’ by military service (The Blaze) — Once interested in becoming a police officer, formerly happy extrovert Micah Johnson became withdrawn, disappointed during his military service. Wonder if he suffered from untreated PTSD and depression after leaving the military? Wonder how many law enforcement officers likewise were former military who sublimated their post-service frustrations? Are we doing enough to help former service persons ease back into civilian life?

Enough. I’m already wishing for Tuesday.

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