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Once Again, US Pretends to Hand Over Control of Parwan Prison, Holds Back Some Prisoners

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. We have headlines at multiple news outlets trumpeting that the US has ceded control of Parwan Prison (newly re-named today as the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan!), but when we drill down just a bit, we see that the US can never truly let go of its love of indefinite detention without trial, and so they have held back a few prisoners from today’s deal. Rod Nordland and Alissa Rubin do the best job of cutting through the US reliance on deception and semantics with their article in today’s New York Times, where even the headline writer got into the spirit of seeing this “agreement” as it really is: “U.S. Cedes Control, Almost, on Afghan Prisoners“.

At the heart of the long-standing difficulty in handing over control of the Parwan facility has been the US insistence that some prisoners be maintained indefinitely without charge while Afghanistan has continued to point out that the rule of law should prevail and all prisoners deserve a trial to determine their guilt. Nordland and Rubin were fed a list of recidivist Taliban figures who have been released by Afghanistan only to return to battle, but they did not allow that information to cloud their reporting on the fact that the US has held back some prisoners in the handover:

The American military formally transferred all but “a small number” of the Afghan prisoners at the Bagram Prison to the Afghan government on Monday in a ceremony that almost, but not quite, marked the end of the American involvement in the long-term detention of insurgents here.

/snip/

Afghan officials said the review boards will no longer exist and all prisoners at Bagram, present and future, will go straight into normal judicial proceedings. American officials, however, said they expected the Afghans to maintain review boards, but without American participation. The difference may be a semantic one, as Afghans expect teams of prosecutors to review which prisoners are released and which are prosecuted in court.

An American military official in Kabul insisted that the military has confidence that those insurgents whom the United States views as enduring security threats would not be released easily or quickly. “These people pose a threat to Afghan soldiers and Afghan civilians, too,” the official said. “We’re confident they will have appropriate measures in place to ensure dangerous detainees don’t pose a threat to Afghan and coalition forces.”

The Americans have long argued for a nonjudicial review process and a way to hold insurgent prisoners in long-term administrative detention, because of the difficulty of building criminal cases under battlefield conditions. Americans have argued that without such a system, soldiers in the field may be tempted to kill rather than capture insurgents. Afghan officials objected that administrative detention was unconstitutional.

We get a bit more information on the prisoners held back in the AP story carried in the Washington Post:

The detention center houses about 3,000 prisoners and the majority are already under Afghan control. The United States had not handed over about 100, and some of those under American authority do not have the right to a trial because the U.S. considers them part of an ongoing conflict.

There are also about three dozen non-Afghan detainees, including Pakistanis and other nationals that will remain in American hands. The exact number and nationality of those detainees has never been made public.

“They are not the priority of the Afghan government so the Americans can keep them for the time being. Our priority are the Afghan detainees,” Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said.

The US sweetened the pot today with an extra $39 million in funding for the facility on top of the approximately $250 million it has already spent building and maintaining it.

Both Afghan news sources I follow, Khaama Press and TOLONews, run straight stories today reporting full handover without mentioning the prisoners that the US is holding back.

All coverage of today’s handover agreement that I have read does place it in the context of the next agreement that is required on whether US troops remaining behind after the NATO withdrawal at the end of 2014 will have criminal immunity. (I must have made too many SOFA jokes in post headlines, because now all US news sources refer to the need for a “bilateral security agreement” rather than a “status of forces agreement”.) The timing for getting today’s agreement in place is quite significant, as John Kerry has suddenly appeared in Afghanistan, presumably to do a bit of SOFA shopping. I’m guessing he will promise a very good purchase price.

Update: The New York Times article has mutated and no longer has the headline that was so revealing. New headline: “Amid Fears of Releases, U.S. Cedes Prison to Afghanistan”. Oh well, the clear explanation lasted for a while and even still lingers in the url of the article.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Our Newest “General” Leading Cambodia 2.0


Congratulations to John Kerry, who now has the job he has always wanted.

I do hope some enterprising journalist asks him about this, a key legal justification for the forever wherever war he is now a critical leader of.

The department has not found any authority for the proposition that when one of the parties to an armed conflict plans and executes operations from a base in a new nation, an operation to engage the enemy in that location cannot be part of the original armed conflict and thus subject to the laws of war governing that conflict, unless the hostilities become sufficiently intense and protracted in the new location. That does not appear to be the rule of the historical practice, for instasnce, even in a traditional international conflict. See John R. Stevenson, Legal Advisor, Department of State, United States Military Action in Cambodia: Questions of International Law, Adress before the Hammerskjold Forum of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (May 28, 1970), in 3 The Vietnam War and International Law: The Widening Context 23 28-30 (Richard A Falk, ed 1972) (arguing that in an international armed conflict, if a netural state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent using its territory as a base of operations, the other belligerent has historically  been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state). [my emphasis]

I fear the projectiles he and his team will be throwing this time around will be far more lethal than the medals he once threw.

Update: Thanks to pushingrope for suggesting that this YouTube is more appropriate than old pictures of the Winter Soldiers.

Why Is State Waiting to Release the Saudi Technical Cooperation Agreement?

As I noted in this post, one explicit purpose of Saudi Minister of Interior Mohammed bin Nayef’s trip to the US from January 14 to 16 was to renew the Technical Cooperation Agreement first signed on May 16, 2008 by Condi Rice and MbN’s father when he was Interior Minister. MbN and Hillary Clinton signed the renewal on January 16.

Particularly given that the prior TCA is posted on State’s website and this picture was out there (not to mention the joint statement with DHS, addressing a trusted traveler program that may end up being controversial), I was surprised that the renewal was not. I checked with State and–after a day of checking–learned that the renewed agreement “hasn’t been posted yet.”

Yes, I do plan to keep trying, both through persistence or FOIA.

But I am interested in why State wouldn’t post it right away. Perhaps it’s just internal bureaucracy, but here are thoughts about some other possibilities.

State could be hiding changes in the funding structure

First, there is a change we know has taken place since the TCA was first signed.

The TCA is basically a cooperation agreement to get direct help from us–including training and toys–to protect Saudi infrastructure and borders, particularly its oil infrastructure. As part of it, the Saudis are developing a 35,000 person force, including a paramilitary force, with US training. But unlike our other defense agreements with the Saudis (and like the Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation it was explicitly modeled on, which had been in place from the 1970s until 1999), this one includes a special bank account to fund it all.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will establish a dollar disbursement account in the United States Treasury. Any funds required by the United States for agreed-upon projects will be deposited by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the account in such amounts and at such times as are mutually agreed, and the United States may draw on this account in the amount so agreed. If upon termination of this agreement there are funds remaining in the special account after all expenses have been paid, such funds will be refunded to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

That account could fund contractors and toys. But at least at first, it could not fund US government employees.

The United States will pay for all costs of U.S. Government direct-hire employees assigned to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform services under this Agreement.

Less than a year into the agreement, that changed, with MbN agreeing the Saudis would also pay for US personnel salaries.

MbN was grateful for USG efforts and assured us full funding would soon follow the signing of these documents, and reconfirmed the SAG’s commitment to pay all OPM-MOI costs. He also agreed to fund all USG employee costs, concurring with any necessary TCA changes to allow such payments, commenting that “hopefully the lawyers will not cause us any problems.”

And already by the time MbN made that agreement, the US was installing military and State employees to oversee this effort (see more on these personnel here).

Now, I’m not entirely sure how innovative it is that the Saudis are funding US hires to defend their oil infrastructure. But MbN’s quip about the lawyers suggests some sensitivity on this front. Read more

Kerry Resists Rand Paul on Pakistan Funding Question

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttImNNFgCDc[/youtube]

At his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Secretary of State, engaged in nearly ten minutes of discussion with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul managed to come off as not nearly as batshit insane as he sounds while campaigning (although Kerry did have to say “let me finish” several times), and actually came very close to making a good and substantial point. While discussing the issue of providing arms to Egypt, Paul mentioned the long history of the US supporting and providing arms to a series of groups including the mujahideen and even Osama bin Laden. I say Paul came close to making a good point because this part of his commentary was framed around these groups coming back to pose a threat to Israel. Paul could have made a very important point had he framed the discussion as part of the bigger issue of the blowback when these groups, especially bin Laden, set their sites sights on the US after being funded by us as “the enemy of my enemy”. Kerry did a fine job of ending this part of the exchange, by stating that answer to the issue of arming various parties is to “make peace”.

In the final third of the video above, Paul moves to the question of relations with Pakistan. I didn’t get to watch the hearing live and haven’t yet found a transcript, but at least in the questions Paul had about Pakistan, I find myself wishing different questions had been asked. Regarding Pakistan, I would have asked Kerry if his idea of diplomacy is represented by his actions in the Raymond Davis affair, when Kerry went to Pakistan to lobby for Davis’ release and smuggled out of Pakistan the driver of the diplomatic vehicle that struck and killed a Pakistani civilian while attempting to rescue Davis from the site where he had shot and killed two Pakistanis. I also would have asked Kerry what steps he had taken personally to follow up on his pledge to Pakistan that Davis would be subject to a criminal investigation for the killings in Lahore.

Instead, Paul asked Kerry whether he would condition financial aid to Pakistan on the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi. Neither Paul nor Kerry mentioned or condemned the vaccination ruse in which the CIA employed Afridi or the damage that ruse has done in terms of reduced polio vaccination rates and murdered health workers who were administering the polio vaccine. Instead, both lamented that someone who had helped the US to find bin Laden would find himself in jail. Kerry, however, stated that withholding aid would be the wrong approach. From the New York Times:

On Pakistan, Mr. Kerry said he had talked to Pakistani leaders about the Pakistani doctor who has been imprisoned for assisting the C.I.A.’s effort to track Osama bin Laden.

“That bothers every American,” said Mr. Kerry, who said that he was nonetheless opposed to cutting aid. “We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it,” he said.

Dawn went into more detail on the exchange:

It was Senator Rand Paul, a new Republican face in the committee, who suggested cutting US aid to Pakistan “if they do not release Dr Shakil Afridi” who, he said, was imprisoned for helping the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader was killed in a US military raid on his compound in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

Mr Kerry informed the senator that he had discussed this issue directly with President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and like most Americans found it “incomprehensible if not repugnant, that somebody who helped us find Osama bin Laden is in jail in Pakistan”.

And “that bothers every American,” he added.

The senior US lawmaker, who stayed engaged with both Pakistan and Afghanistan as President Obama’s informal emissary during his first term, urged Senator Paul to also look at what the Pakistanis say.

“Pakistanis make the argument Dr Afridi did not know what he was doing, who he was specifically targeting … it was like a business for him,” he said, adding that this was no excuse for keeping the physician in jail.

But he said that he would stay engaged with Pakistan rather than resorting to “a pretty dramatic, draconian, sledge-hammer” approach of cutting US aid to the country Senator Paul had suggested.

This discussion by Paul and Kerry of Afridi is the first time in several weeks that Afridi’s name has resurfaced. I still think it likely that Afridi will disappear from the jail where he is now held. The only question is whether he will reappear in the US (where people like Rand Paul and Dana Rohrabacher will certainly want to take him on tour with them in a victory lap) or just disappear entirely.

Failed Filibuster Reform Doesn’t Only Affect Partisan Relationships

As you’ve no doubt heard, Harry Reid, with the support of a handful of Senators, has killed the effort to reform the filibuster.

DDay has come out of retirement to issue an excellent rant on what this means for democracy. [Update] Here’s Kagro X on what the deal means in practice.

But I wanted to point to this exchange–between still-Senator John Kerry, who had been squeamish but open to reform, and Jim Risch, in the former’s confirmation hearing to become part of the Executive Branch. (1:25 and following)

Risch: I know you have a deep appreciation for the Constitutional process regarding foreign relations matters. There are a lot of us who are becoming increasingly concerned about all this talk about Executive Agreements as opposed to treaties that are negotiated by the Executive Branch as contemplated by the Founding Fathers and ratified, if appropriate, by this committee and eventually by the full Senate. Can you give us your view on matters regarding Executive Agreements. How do you feel about that and the bypassing of the C–

Kerry: Well, every Administration in history,

Risch: Appreciate that.

Kerry: –Republican and Democratic alike, have entered into Executive Agreements.

Risch: You agree the better process would be to submit it to this committee first?

Kerry: It would depend–I would say to you Senator that it would depend on what the subject matter is and what the sort of scope is and whether or not it falls under traditional treaty purview or it falls under Executive Agreement purview. I can’t, I don’t want to be commenting in some prophylactic way, one side or the other, without the specific situation in front of me. But I’m confident the President is committed to upholding the Constitution I don’t think he’s … you know, I think, I’ll say this to all of you. There’s no better way to guarantee that whatever concerns you have about the President’s desire to move on an Executive Agreement would be greatly nullified or mollified if we could find a way to cooperate on a treaty or on the broader issues that face the nation. But, you know, I think there’s a lot of frustration out there that some of the automatic ideological restraint here that prevents the majority from being able to express their voice has restrained people and pushed people in a way that they have got to consider other ways of getting things done.

Risch: And that’s exactly what concerns us, Senator Kerry, is the fact that it’s okay to do this through the regular order if it gets done, but if it’s not going to get done, the ends justify the means, it’s okay to end run around the Congress. And I gotta tell you I feel strongly that that is not the appropriate way to do it. The Founding Fathers didn’t say do this if it’s convenient and it’s okay not to do it if it’s not convenient.

Kerry: Is that right. I would agree with you and I’m not suggesting that that is the standard. But I am saying to you–and I think you know exactly what I’m talking about– that there are times around here, in recent days only, and I don’t want to get deeply into it, where certain arguments that are not necessarily based either on fact or on science or anything except the point of view of some outside entity have prevented certain things from being able to be done. [my emphasis]

Basically Jim Risch was objecting to Obama’s consideration of using Executive Agreements with other countries rather than treaties. In response, Kerry suggested that if the Republicans didn’t obstruct so much using the filibuster–preventing the majority from being able to express its voice–then Obama would be more likely to use Executive Agreements.

Frankly, Risch is defending not just the right of some right wing Senators to hold up treaties, but also some backassward policies. Kerry’s nod to science suggests one of the issues here is in climate negotiations (though that’s not the only one–Obama is also avoiding Congress on some horrible IP negotiations). To the extent that national security is a reason to bypass Congress (it’s not, but Republicans have argued it is), then climate change ought to qualify as well.

But Kerry–at almost precisely the moment Democrats chose not to pursue a way to bypass Republican obstruction and as part of the process to become part of the Executive Branch–used Republican obstruction as an excuse to bypass Congress.

And so the Democrat’s refusal to make the Senate more democratic will, in turn, lead the Executive Branch to be even less democratic.

Washington Post Lifts Veil Further on CIA’s Global Response Staff, Raymond Davis

Greg Miller and Julie Tate provide some fascinating reading in today’s Washington Post, where they provide many new details on the CIA’s Global Response Staff and reveal that its most famous (probably now former) member is Raymond Davis.

One thing that we learn is that members of the GRS typically are contractors and that they are paid a “lucrative” salary around $140,000, but with no benefits. I suppose an argument can be made that by hiring contractors, the CIA has an extra layer of deniability, but it still strikes me as completely heartless and stark that people with such important missions and at such high risk are treated in a way that nonprofit foundations have to exist to provide for school expenses for the surviving children when these operatives die while on duty.

What I want to concentrate on here, though, is the description of what GRS does and how that might give us new insight into the Raymond Davis incident. Here are Miller and Tate on what GRS does:

The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

/snip/

CIA veterans said that GRS teams have become a critical component of conventional espionage, providing protection for case officers whose counterterrorism assignments carry a level of risk that rarely accompanied the cloak-and-dagger encounters of the Cold War.

Spywork used to require slipping solo through cities in Eastern Europe. Now, “clandestine human intelligence involves showing up in a Land Cruiser with some [former] Deltas or SEALs, picking up an asset and then dumping him back there when you are through,” said a former CIA officer who worked closely with the security group overseas.

Bodyguard details have become so essential to espionage that the CIA has overhauled its training program at the Farm — its case officer academy in southern Virginia — to teach spies the basics of working with GRS teams.

I have always been troubled by the Raymond Davis incident, trying to understand why Davis would have been seen as a target worthy of attacking in the middle of a busy and highly populated urban site. But now I wonder whether Davis was by himself when the incident started. If he was providing security to a high value target, that would provide a much better explanation for why his vehicle was attacked. Also, recall that a Toyota Land Cruiser rushed to the scene from the Lahore consulate, killing a third Pakistani when it went the wrong way down a one-way street. The whole Davis incident would make more sense to me if this Land Cruiser picked up the high value target and, most likely, a second GRS protector and took them back to the Lahore consulate. Recall that as Marcy pointed out, John Kerry subsequently smuggled the Land Cruiser driver out of Pakistan. Did he also remove the high value target and the other GRS protector?

One final note. The article addresses recruitment for GRS, stating “The work is lucrative enough that recruiting is done largely by word of mouth”. I had previously speculated that Davis was a CIA recruiter, but given the GRS duties we now know, the types of recruiting targets I described fit even better into GRS jobs.

 

Obama, Stuck in the 9/11 Era as Much as Mitt Is Stuck in the Cold War Era

Working on another post, I went back and read all three Obama DNC speeches. (200420082012) Aside from the biographical details, several things remained constant through all three: the Hope theme (though it has evolved in interesting ways, which is what I was looking at), the inclusion of some version of “We don’t think the government can solve all our problems,” and a call for energy independence.

2004

In 2004, that call came in a list of things John Kerry planned to accomplish.

John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.

2008

In 2008, the call came with a specific goal: to end dependence on the Middle East by 2019.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East. [my emphasis]

Obama embodied the refusal of DC to address energy independence in John McCain’s career, and in the “Drill Baby Drill” chant that was the rage in political circles in 2008.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

And he made several promises–several of which he has made progress on, several of which he has thankfully not achieved, one of which–nukes–he has at least rhetorically dropped from his convention speech.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

2012

And last week he, correctly, argued that Mitt would not continue this commitment to an energy independence that relies on a range of sources (Mitt would certainly keep drilling, would expand traditional coal mining, and would keep paying Iowa farmers to pour corn into cars, but would probably not continued subsidies for clean technologies).

OBAMA: You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.

(APPLAUSE)

In this section, Obama quietly–too quietly–bragged about the jobs he created in battery and turbine plants.

We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines, and long-lasting batteries.

And he accurately claimed that these policies (plus the recession, plus a warm winter, though he doesn’t mention them) have made a difference.

In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.

(APPLAUSE)

So, now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it.

What I’m interested in, though, is the emphasis he places on the energy and the unconvincing nod he makes to climate change. In 2004, Obama had listed “the future of our planet” as the third of three reasons for his commitment to energy independence; the other two were “our economy” and “our security.” Here, an explicit admission that “climate change is not a hoax” comes among promises to “drill baby drill.”

We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers. We’re offering a better path. [my emphasis]

Even when I listened to this passage the other night, I was offended by his promise not to let oil companies endanger our coastlines. Oil from the BP spill came onshore with Hurricaine Isaac. Just a week before he delivered these lines, Obama approved Shell drilling in the Chukchi Sea which presents predictable dangers to coastlines and species, particularly given how Shell has already failed to take necessary precautions. And even the Saudis recognize that fracking presents a real threat to our groundwater. So not only is Obama not subordinating the sanctity of our coastlines to his commitment to drill, neither is he making adequate efforts to protect our drinking water.

(APPLAUSE)

We’re offering a better path, a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where — where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.

If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.

(APPLAUSE) [my emphasis]

Then, after what, given the brevity of the speech, is a very long section on drilling, Obama immediately nods to climate change.

And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax. Read more

Gang Warfare to Protect Israel’s Secrets

Easily the most overlooked line in David Sanger’s story on StuxNet is this one:

Mr. Obama concluded that when it came to stopping Iran, the United States had no other choice.

If Olympic Games failed, he told aides, there would be no time for sanctions and diplomacy with Iran to work. Israel could carry out a conventional military attack, prompting a conflict that could spread throughout the region.

It’s a sentiment he repeats in this worthwhile interview:

FP: There haven’t been thoughtful discussions about the consequences or the ethics or the international legal ramifications of this approach. Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you are confronted with this. Isn’t your first reaction, “How is them blowing up Natanz with a code any different from them blowing up Natanz with a bomb? And doesn’t that justify military retaliation?”

DS: Blowing it up with computer code, rather than bombs, is different in one big respect: It very hard for the Iranians in real time to know who the attacker was, and thus to make a public case for retaliating. It takes a long time to figure out where a cyber attack comes from.

That was a big reason for the U.S. and Israel to attack Natanz in this way. But it wasn’t the only reason, at least from the American perspective. One of the main driving forces for Olympic Games was to so wrap the Israelis into a project that could cripple Natanz in a subtle way that Israel would see less of a motivation to go about a traditional bombing, one that could plunge the Middle East into a another war. [my emphasis]

A key purpose of StuxNet, according to Sanger, was not just to set back the Iranian nuke program. Rather, it was to set back the nuke program in such a way as to set back Israel’s push for war against Iran.

With that in mind, consider the way the article blamed the Israelis for letting StuxNet escape.

An error in the code, they said, had led it to spread to an engineer’s computer when it was hooked up to the centrifuges. When the engineer left Natanz and connected the computer to the Internet, the American- and Israeli-made bug failed to recognize that its environment had changed. It began replicating itself all around the world. Suddenly, the code was exposed, though its intent would not be clear, at least to ordinary computer users.

“We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,” one of the briefers told the president, “and we don’t know if we were part of that activity.”

Mr. Obama, according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr. Biden fumed. “It’s got to be the Israelis,” he said. “They went too far.”

After having explained that the whole point of StuxNet was to stop the Israelis from bombing Iran, the article then goes on to say that what alerted the Iranians to StuxNet’s presence in their systems–and effectively gave a very dangerous weapon to hackers around the world–was an Israeli modification to the code.

The Israelis went too far.

Those details are, IMO, some of the most interesting new details, not included the last time David Sanger confirmed the US and Israel were behind StuxNet on the front page of the NYT.

How very telling, then, that of all the highly revealing articles that have come out during this Administration–of all of the highly revealing articles that have come out in general, including Sanger’s earlier one revealing some of the very same details–Congress is going apeshit over this one.

Read more

As Pakistan Angles for Joint Ownership of Drone Attacks, Kerry To Be Dispatched for Another Apology

Dawn is reporting this morning that Pakistan is in the process of abandoning its demand that US drone strikes in Pakistan end and instead is now bargaining for joint ownership of the process, giving the Pakistanis access to key intelligence and advance knowledge of strikes. In the meantime, the Express Tribune is reporting that John Kerry is soon to be dispatched to Pakistan to convey an official apology for the November, 2011 border post attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops. Both of these developments occur within the larger framework of the US and Pakistan working to redefine cooperation on various fronts as a precursor to reopening NATO supply routes through Pakistan.

As the Dawn story points out, Pakistan seems to have moved to negotiating for joint ownership of drone strikes because the US flatly rejects Pakistan’s demand for an end to drone strikes:

Pakistan and the United States have begun exploring various options for joint ownership of drone attacks against militant targets in the tribal belt after the US flatly refused to stop the predator strikes.

“We are striving to have genuine co-ownership of the drone operations,” a senior Pakistani diplomat, who has been regularly briefed on the ongoing behind-the-scenes negotiations between Islamabad and Washington, told Dawn on Thursday.

Given the level of distrust the US has shown toward Pakistan’s intelligence operations, my guess is that sharing advance knowledge of targets will be rejected just as strongly as the concept of stopping drone attacks was dismissed. In anticipation of losing on the issue of drones, they are now being left off Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s list of areas in which the US and Pakistan are nearing final agreement:

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, while outlining the negotiation agenda at the DCC meeting over the weekend, omitted drone attacks.

“Negotiation on new terms and conditions for resumption of the Ground Lines of Communication (more commonly referred to as Nato supply routes), joint counter-terrorism cooperation, greater inter-agency coordination, transparency in US diplomatic and intelligence footprint in Pakistan, strengthening of border security and non-use of Pakistan’s territory for attacks on other countries and expulsion of all foreign fighters from Pakistan’s territory, are our fundamental policy parameters,” Mr Gilani said while listing ‘policy parameters’ for re-engagement with the US.

The current break in US-Pakistan relations was triggered by the killing of 24 Pakistani troops at a border station last November. It now appears that a formal apology for that incident is in the works:

US President Barack Obama is sending his key trouble-shooter to Pakistan later this month amidst efforts to reset ties in light of the new foreign policy guidelines recently approved by parliament.

Former presidential hopeful and chairman of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry is expected to travel to Islamabad on April 29 to meet the country’s top civil and military leadership, an official told The Express Tribune.

Kerry seems to be the go-to guy on both apologies and non-apologies, as he was dispatched for the apology for the Raymond Davis incident and was sent to tell Pakistan that we would not apologize for the Osama bin Laden killing.

Considering that Pakistan is also demanding an end to covert agents inside Pakistan, we are left to wonder whether Kerry will  use his plane once again to remove spies, as he did while delivering the Davis incident apology.

Give Them a Damn Ticker Tape Parade Already

“Who will be the last senator to not want to end a mistake? Me.” – John Kerry

That’s the way MightyOCD interpreted John Kerry’s vote–along with 66 of his colleagues–not to repeal the Iraq war that is ending whether they like it or not next month.

The vote was on a Rand Paul amendment to repeal the 2002 Iraq War AUMF.

Along with Paul, DeMint, Heller, and Snowe, a bunch of liberals and Blue Dogs like Bad Nelson and Manchin voted to end the Iraq mistake.

Yet liberals like Levin, Stabenow, Reed, and Whitehouse voted to continue the war that is ending.

By my count, something like 25 men and women who weren’t around to vote for the AUMF when it first passed in 2002 voted in favor of continuing this infernal war–and that’s not counting people like Levin and Stabenow who voted against it the first time.

So we’re going to have all these AUMFs lying around on the books. authorizing secret powers we’re not allowed to know, rather than simply and cleanly declaring a war over. Done.

In the good old days, you’d declare victory and give the men and women who served a big parade. How I’d love a parade about now.