Friday, May 29, 2015

Finally some good news!

How much attention did this get? Certainly not as much as Dennis Hastert.  Destruction of chemical weapons is a good thing! Now let's get America and Russia to do the same and get the other few countries to join the treaty too!

Major milestone reached as 90% of global chemical weapon stocks destroyed

Thursday, 28 May 2015

OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, today announced that 90% of declared chemical weapons had been verified by the OPCW as destroyed.  This includes stocks of unitary weapons, such as sulfur mustard, and primary precursor chemicals for producing deadly nerve agents, like sarin.  All destruction activities have been completed in a safe manner.

“This is a major milestone that shows we are well on the way to ridding the world of chemical weapons,” said Ambassador Üzümcü.

The process to complete the elimination of Cold War-era stockpiles in Russia and the United States is well under way and is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2020 and 2023, respectively.

Commenting on other aspects of the OPCW’s mission, the Director-General noted that there was more work ahead, and new challenges to address, if the international community is to succeed in preventing chemical weapons from re-emerging.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has 190 States Parties, with six States – Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and South Sudan – still outside the Convention.  Angola’s and Myanmar’s parliaments recently approved joining the Convention, and both countries are expected to soon become States Parties

I noticed the story hidden among Richard Tomkins' military-industrial complex stories.


UPI reports Pentagon weapons test successes

Looking at UPI's headlines recently I noticed something interesting.  Several articles on new weapons from our defense contractors, and their successful tests on the first try.  When did UPI start doing this type of stenographic reporting?  The archive on the web goes back to 2001.

Looking again at the website I now found these as well. Remember that this is just today's headlines from a wire service, not Jane's Defense Weekly or a military paper.  All of them are written by Richard Tomkins.  

May 29, 2015 here are 6 out of the top 15 headlines.

We know that there are lots of problems with military procurement and actual success of weapons systems, like the F-35, V-22 Osprey, Iron Dome in Israel and David's Sling from the Gulf War, just to name a few recent examples.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Guide to Conducting Research in FBI Records

I stumbled upon Daniel Rigmaiden's tweet showing that the FBI deleted from it's website a guide to FOIA research.

Read the rest of the conversation as well.  Here Daniel quotes from his Motion for Summary Judgement a possible reason why FBI deleted the guide

Luckily Jeffrey Kaye and Alexa O'Brien noticed that it was archived and posted links to the Internet Archive page.  I noticed that the links within the archived version still work, including my favorite, View a printable version (pdf, 13MB)

So now I have a copy for you to read since FBI took it down

A Guide to Conducting Research in FBI Records


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

As Israel bombs Gaza again, there are talks of a summer war in Lebanon

**Update June 4, 2015 from Richard Silverstein's Tikkun Olam Blog

IDF Chief of Staff Promises 1.5-Million Lebanese Refugees in Next War
Israel’s chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot told Israeli media that his forces were preparing for the next war with Hezbollah. He promised that when (not if) it happens, Israel will force 1.5-million Lebanese to flee for their lives while it invades the country and destroys it in worse fashion than it did in 2006 (the last time Israel came knocking). Israeli media only identified the source of this threat of war crimes as a “very senior IDF source.” But an informed Israeli source confirms that it was none other than Eizenkot himself.
Main Article

Israel is bombing Gaza again this week after reporting rockets were fired at Southern Israel.

Ma'an News Agency reports that the Arab League condemned Israel's attacks
The Arab League condemned the Israeli air strikes.
"The extremist Israeli government is trying to find pretexts to divert the international community's attention from resuming (peace) negotiations," Arab League deputy head Ahmed bin Heli told reporters in Cairo.
Wafa reports on Israeli airstrikes in several cities in Gaza.
There were no reports of any casualties.
Yesterday, Israeli media sources said a projectile which was fired from Gaza exploded in an open area near the port city of Ashdod, some 20 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip.
It said that there was no damages reported, but medical services said a 15-year-old girl from Ashdod arrived at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon suffering from shock, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza for the rocket launching.
Shortly afterwards, the Israeli army issued a statement saying it had struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad facilities in the southern Gaza Strip, and blamed Hamas for the rocket fire.
The Guardian reports that Hamas arrested members of Islamic Jihad who were behind the attacks but
An Islamic Jihad spokesman was not available to comment. Hamas officials had no comment on the reported arrests.
returning to my role as media critic, this is blatantly wrong from The Guardian
The region has been largely quiet since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that halted seven weeks of fighting.
When you follow the daily news from Israel and Palestine even casually, you see how wrong that is immediately.

News happens every day that is not reported, even within the country, because like in the US when it's Muslims who are the victims of white Christian violence, that is not considered “terrorism” by our news media standards

Israeli soldiers regularly shoot at Palestinian fisherman, and that is never reported in the West as violence.
Egyptian forces injured a Palestinian fisherman with live fire on Monday, shortly after two other Gazan fishermen were shot and injured by Israeli forces earlier in the day for allegedly leaving the designated fishing zone.
Israeli forces also reportedly opened fire on boats Sunday.
Restrictions on fishing zones off the coast of the Gaza Strip have been heavily enforced by Israeli forces as part of a blockade imposed on the strip since 2006, as forces repeatedly opened fire on Palestinians on land and at sea, confiscated fishing boats and equipment, and detained fishermen.
March alone witnessed a total of 35 incidents of shootings and incursions into the coastal enclave according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Israel agreed to expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast as part of last summer's ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, however fishermen are regularly prevented from fishing within the agreed limits.
It is only when Palestinians retaliate that the media pays attention.

In contrast to The Guardian reporting that “The region has been largely quiet since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that halted seven weeks of fighting” Ma'an News Agency reports that
Tuesday's rocket was the third fired from Gaza since the ceasefire, in addition to two mortar bombs reportedly fired at Israel since September, according to the Shin Bet internal security agency.
The UN Special Coordinator (UNSCO) released a report Monday saying the ceasefire that ended the latest war remains "perilously fragile."
While Palestinian armed groups have test-fired around 150 rockets into the sea, Israeli forces have carried out a range of military incursions into the coastal enclave, including two air strikes, the report said.
Gaza-based Israeli watchdog Al Mezan documented Israeli forces opening fire in the border areas inside of the Gaza Strip six separate times during the first ten days of May, leaving four injured including one child.
Wednesday's air strike was the third since the end of the 2014 war.
While Israel is bombing Gaza there is another war that is being talked about, a summer war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, possibly to strike a death blow to the Iran nuclear deal being reached by the P5 + 1

Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council just wrote in Huffington Post that
There are signs Israel may be at war again this summer. This time, not with Hamas in Gaza but with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such a war may be the result not only of spillover from the Syrian war or ongoing Israeli-Hezbollah tensions. The deciding factor may be an Israeli calculation that war will shift momentum in the U.S. Congress decisively against the pending nuclear deal with Iran -- a deal that critics say will increase Iran's maneuverability in the region, including its support for Hezbollah.
In spite of AIPAC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudis and some of its GCC allies having done everything they could to kill the pending nuclear deal with Iran, they have failed. The negotiations are on track.
a case for a war with Hezbollah has been made in Israel for the past few months. On May 12 the New York Times reported that Israeli is preparing for "what it sees as an almost inevitable next battle with Hezbollah." An Israeli official added in comments to the Times: "We will hit Hezbollah hard."
The Israelis argue that Hezbollah is engaged in a massive military buildup, and that Israel is publicizing Hezbollah's armament "to put the problem on the international agenda in case there is another conflict." According to the Israeli military, Hezbollah now has the capacity to hurl 1200 rockets a day at Israel.
Israel has been pushing this angle for several months. In February, 28 US lawmakers came to Israel's aid and wrote the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon,demanding that the UN stop Hezbollah from rearming. The letter accused the UN of failing to enforce resolutions, including one that requires the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."
Then I saw (via Uprooted Palestinians) that Press TV reported on a conference in Beirut of Islamic Scholars aiming to unite against Israeli aggression
Islamic scholars from around the globe participating in a conference in Lebanon’s capital Beirut have underlined the need for the Muslim world to unite against Israel, saying the Zionist regime has launched an open war on Muslims.
Participants, both Sunnis and Shias, at the International Union of Resistance conference in Beirut on Wednesday discussed ways to promote unity and solidarity in the Muslim world and focus on the problems facing the Islamic world. They highlighted the cultural and religious commonalities among Muslim countries and stressed the need for them to set aside their differences.
The organizer of the event, the International Union of Resistance, was formed in the Lebanese capital last year to create a unified front in the face of the Israeli threat in the strategically important region of the Middle East.
On January 8, 2015, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas called on all Islamic states to stand by the Palestinian nation in its struggles against Israeli atrocities.
We are seeing Israeli attacks against Gaza right now, and we may see another war in Lebanon, but the true goal may be broader than any stated goals.

Israel has been playing up fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions for decades, despite Iran's right to nuclear enrichment for energy, and their long history of not wanting a nuclear weapon, even at the height of the 8 year long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

But efforts to keep the Middle East nuclear free were squandered once again as we found out when Netanyahu thanked Obama and Kerry for blocking an Egyptian proposal at the UN review conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty (NPT) (UNODA)
Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, thanked the US secretary of state, John Kerry, for blocking an Egyptian-led drive on a possible Middle East nuclear arms ban at a United Nations conference, an Israeli official said on Saturday.
A month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure on Friday, over disagreements on the issue of a Middle East atomic weapons ban. Washington blamed the failure on Egypt, which in turn blamed the US, British and Canadian delegations.
Netanyahu spoke with Kerry “to convey his appreciation to President Obama and to the secretary”, a senior Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.
“The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East,” the official added.
Israel also thanked Britain and Canada for joining the US in blocking consensus at the conference, the official said.
Last month, Egypt, backed by other Arab and non-aligned states, proposed that the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, convene within 180 days a regional conference on banning weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as called for at the 2010 NPT review meeting.
Ban voiced disappointment that NPT parties were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMD)”.
According to Egypt’s proposal the conference could take place with or without Israel’s participation, and could be held without agreement on an agenda or discussion of regional security issues – two of Israel’s conditions for participating.
Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal. Israel, which has never joined the NPT, agreed to take part in the review meeting as an observer, ending a 20-year absence.
The call for a 2012 conference on a regional WMD ban, approved at the 2010 NPT review meeting, infuriated Israel, though it eventually agreed to attend planning meetings. The 2012 conference never took place, which annoyed Egypt and other Arab states. Egypt’s proposals, western diplomats say, were aimed at pressuring Israel.
Washington and Israel say Iran’s nuclear programme is the real regional threat.
Iran says its programme is peaceful. It is negotiating with world powers to curb it in exchange for lifting sanctions.
Israel has said it would consider joining the NPT only once at peace with its Arab neighbours and Iran.
But according to The Forward, quoted by Lobelog, while Israeli political leaders are "worrying" about a nuclear Iran, IDF fears Hezbollah more, showing more signs of agreement with Trita Parsi's reporting that there are rumors of a war in Lebanon this summer.
one key group of experts doesn’t buy into that threat assessment: namely, the heads of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The Forward’s J.J. Goldberg reported on Tuesday that:
Israel’s military General Staff and intelligence services are in the midst of a series of formal discussions focused on just the opposite assumption: the likelihood that the emerging nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers could minimize the Iranian threat for an extended period, allowing the military to redirect budgets and resources toward areas of more immediate concern. The discussions are chaired by the deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Major General Yair Golan, under the supervision of the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot.
And what does keep the IDF awake at night? “[The] likelihood of renewed flare-ups within the next few years with the heavily armed Islamist militias on Israel’s northern and southern borders, Hezbollah and Hamas,” reports Goldberg.
What keeps me up at night is Israeli and American misguided foreign policy that creates the enemies it tells us to fear.... 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

More on the US raid against Abu Sayyaf

Updating my thoughts on the raid that killed ISIS oil finance minister Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife Umm Sayyaf.

Adam Johnson in an article for FAIR writes how the Mainstream media, blindly following the Obama Administration's claims of another "success" against ISIS failed to remind readers that the US had just put boots on the ground in Syria
Per usual, the media would retell the narrative based entirely on Pentagon and White House action movie prose. Just as with the bin Laden raid narrative—that later turned out to be mostly false—this tale involved some unbelievably compelling details: “rescuing a Yazidi slave,” “hand-to-hand combat,” “women and children as human shields,” “precise fire” (that, of course, avoided these women and children), and a body count, “40 extremists,” that would make Jack Bauer blush.
given that the last such politically loaded raid, on the bin Laden “compound” in Pakistan, turned out to be full of White House lies—to say nothing of Seymour Hersh’s recent, high-profile allegations that theentire thing was staged—you’d think a bit of skepticism would be in order. But, in a world of mass information asymmetry, the government’s word on these matters is treated as the authoritative one until proven otherwise.
This routine problem, however, is not the real journalistic crime here. The real issue is that the White House just admitted it has American ground troops engaged in combat missions in Syria—and no one seemed to notice, much less care.
While it’s true the White House has acknowledged hostage rescue missions in Syria, this is the first time it’s admitted soldiers have been deployed inside Syria for expressly military purposes.

I noticed a few things from the Daily Beast article.  One is that here there is not mention that Umm Sayyaf was an initial target of the raid like the White House and Pentagon said in their statements.
His wife, an Iraqi national, and an 18-year-old Yazidi slave were taken out of the compound, as well as computers, cell phones and other forms of potential intelligence sources, which U.S. officials already believe will be valuable.
U.S. officials suspect that Abu Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, is also a member the group and "played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in the enslavement of the young woman rescued last night."
U.S. officials are questioning Umm Sayyaf, an Iraqi national, and still have not determined what will happen to her. Among the options being considered is releasing her or turning her over to Iraqi custody.
(Abu and Umm Sayaf are nom de guerres, meaning Father and Mother of Sayyaf, but defense officials said they did not have their actual names to release.)
Another senior US official, who asked not to be identified for this article, told The Daily Beast that Abu Sayyaf was one of several ISIS figures targeted in the raid but that the others had left before the strike-force arrived, suggesting although the mission had been fully successful, US commanders were hoping to ensnare bigger ISIS leaders.
Political activists in the area say another ISIS oil emir, a Saudi national, was killed in the raid as well. They also say that Abu Sayyaf’s wife is a relative of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, although it is not clear whether by blood or marriage. 

Adam concludes by saying
What the media rarely do is stop to put things in context. It’s the slow drip of a war that’s sold to an American public in small, disconnected parts, so we don’t notice.
Put another way: If we were told in August 2014 that within a year, the US would have ground troops carrying out raids in Syria and Iraq, as well as bombing in both countries, would we have agreed?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why does President Obama have 3 accounts on Twitter?

On May 18th, President Obama opened a 3rd Twitter account, @POTUS, after using @barackobama since March 2007 and @WhiteHouse as President.  One reason to wonder why Obama has a 3rd Twitter account is looking at the small number of tweets, 4 so far, one saying hi, one about Camden meeting on police brutality, one a joke about Hillary running for President, and one about coast guard graduation and climate change.

NPR commented on who Obama was following, and who he is not following,
It's heavy on Chicago sports teams, (Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears and Bulls), Cabinet officers and executive agencies. He's also following the three colleges and universities he attended: Columbia, Harvard and Occidental. No celebrities, or journalists for that matter, have made the list yet.
While Funny or Die shows fake(?) deleted tweets from @POTUS, Sunlight Foundation's "Politwoops" website of deleted Tweets from politicians shows no deleted tweets from @POTUS, but does contain deleted tweets from @barackobama, @whitehouse, and the no longer active @obamainagural

One answer to why Obama has 3 accounts could be to track who tweets threats to President Obama, as I saw here from the New York Times, writing as it's headline 

Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts

this should not be shocking to anyone following the vitriol doled out to the President since day 1, even breaking new records of disrespect, like when Congressman Joe Wilson shouted "You Lie" during a joint session of Congress.

The New York Times explains that
it took only a few minutes for Mr. Obama’s account to attract racist, hate-filled posts and replies.
but here is where a story about long-standing racist attacks against President Obama get interesting and concerning.....the government's response. (emphasis mine)
a user calling himself @jeffgully49, who has posted other images of Mr. Obama in a noose, and whose Twitter profile picture shows Mr. Obama behind bars. “We still hang for treason, don’t we?” his post said.
The writer, Jeff Gullickson of Minneapolis, subsequently posted on Thursday that his reply to Mr. Obama had earned him a visit from the Secret Service at home. Reached for comment, Mr. Gullickson responded by asking in an email how much The New York Times would pay him for an interview.
White House officials and a Twitter spokesman said they could not determine the percentage of postings to Mr. Obama that were racist. But they appeared to be a small number in what was an otherwise social-media-fueled show of love for Mr. Obama, who was drawing followers at a breakneck pace — nearly 2.3 million by Thursday afternoon — and hundreds of worshipful messages that welcomed him to Twitter and praised him on everything from his appearance to his policies.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said that the language directed at Mr. Obama was unfortunately “all too common on the Internet,” and that officials would probably not spend much time trying to block abusive commenters from the president’s account.
“What we believe is that the president’s new Twitter handle is one that can be used to important effect and to communicate with the American people and to engage the American people,” Mr. Earnest said. “We’re pleased with the early response to it.”
The Twitter account @BarackObama, which was created eight years ago and is controlled by the liberal activist group Organizing for Action, has long been a target of racist postings, as has the official @WhiteHouse.
Law enforcement response
The Secret Service has a special “Internet Threat Desk” that monitors them, assessing whether they constitute a genuine danger and what should be done in response.
“People have the right to free speech,” said Brian Leary, a Secret Service spokesman. “We also have the right and an obligation to determine a person’s intent when they say something.”
The response can range from a conversation determining someone’s intent all the way up to working with the local United States attorney’s office to prosecute someone, Mr. Leary said.
Law enforcement agencies can also submit requests to Twitter when postings appear to pose immediate physical danger to someone, and Twitter will provide information about the account. A Twitter transparency report for the second half of 2014, the latest available, showed that the government had made more than 1,600 such requests. Twitter had furnished information in 80 percent of those cases.
“Like all of our technology industry peers, we do not proactively monitor content,” said Nu Wexler, a Twitter spokesman. “Individual users and law enforcement authorities — including the U.S. Secret Service — report content to us, and we review their reports against our rules, which prohibit violent threats and targeted abuse.”
I think given the lack of need for Obama to have a new platform of communication, especially a 3rd account on Twitter, lends more credibility to my theory that this launch may be a way to monitor those who attack Obama with news of this new account.

And I'm not alone in point this out, I'm just wondering if this was an intention all along.

WaPo says Uh, you probably don’t want to tweet to @POTUS, actually
Not only does the Secret Service already monitor Twitter for threats, but the White House is archiving each and every thing @POTUS tweeters say. Ashley Feinberg flagged this relevant piece of the White House Online Privacy Policy:
On Twitter, the White House automatically archives “tweets” from official White House accounts, “direct messages” sent to or from official White House accounts, and “mentions” (tweets from other users to official White House accounts)…
… in other words, when you tweet “leave Michelle for me @POTUS,” or something even more inappropriate/creepy, that lives in an official White House Archive for eternity (slash, for potential future scrutiny).
To be clear, this isn’t just a White House thing: The principle applies, in one form or another, to most types of social networking. Some personal data, once uploaded to Facebook, never really disappears unless you close your account. Tweets, even after deletion, can live on in caches (… and elsewhere). Even your Google searches — which feel so fleeting, so meaningless, in the moment! — can be archived and aggregated and, potentially, subpoenaed for use in court. 
Gawker gave more explicit examples of sexual tweets Obama has received, and reminded everyone that White House policy is to archive it all under the Presidential Records Act.

Huffington Post's Jason Linkins suggested Obama delete his Twitter account and also commented on the work Secret Service would now be doing monitoring threats (Washington Examiner was to the point writing the headline Obama's Twitter feed gives Secret Service something else to monitor)
For a president, Twitter is just one more avenue in which your every move will become politicized (which is already happening) and where racist trolls lurk around every corner. (Speaking of, think about all the new work the Secret Service is going to have.)
and adding my point that Twitter as a communications platform is unnecessary
It's also completely unnecessary for a president to be on Twitter, because there is a whole media apparatus already assembled that's ready to broadcast any stray utterance to the masses. Barack Obama could walk into the White House Press Room; say, "Hey, guys, check out this delicious avocado toast I made"; and by nightfall it would be translated into three Politico items, broadcast on every cable news channel, mined for at least two think pieces, and adapted as a metaphor for Maureen Dowd to beat to death over the next four years.
Anyone who thinks that this new outlet is going to be a venue for the president's unvarnished, sincere opinion needs to get his head examined. And yes, that cute little exchange between Obama and former President Bill Clinton was absolutely a tidy bit of Oval Office kayfabe. Anything that gets posted to the @POTUS account will be vetted within an inch of its life, and anything remotely interesting will be stripped out and watered down.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The US raid in Syria

I do not know yet whether Umm Sayyaf was a target before the raid or that is just what they said after raid happened--Remember that Syria spoke first (h/t Moon of Alabama)

John Bellinger wrote about some of the legal aspects of the raid and the detention of Umm Sayyaf at Lawfare
Presumably, the domestic law authority both for the raid, and for the detention, is the 2001 AUMF, upon which the Obama Administration has been relying since last September for military operations against ISIS, despite the near unanimous agreement of observers that it is legal stretch to do so (given that the 2001 AUMF is directed at the “nations, organizations, or persons” responsible for the 9-11 attacks). It’s especially ironic that the Administration would continue to rely on the 2001 AUMF for detention for ISIS members, given that President Obama has repeatedly said that he wants to “repeal” the 2001 AUMF.
State Department said in its daily briefing on Monday that yes Umm Sayyaf is being detained under 2001 and 2002 AUMF authorities
MR RATHKE: -- for detention, the President has authority under the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, and the international legal basis for this detention is the consent of the Government of Iraq in the context of the ongoing military operations in Iraq and Syria against ISIL.

Main Article

The weekend after Seymour Hersh's exposé about the lies told by the White House about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and as a reminder that we are at war in Iraq and Syria, and we have more than 3,000 boots on the ground, US special operations forces conducted a raid against ISIS's oil and finance "minister" known as Abu Sayyaf in al-Amr Syria.  According to the White House National Security Council and The Pentagon statements about the raid, but left out of most newspaper accounts is that Abu Sayyaf's wife, known as Umm, was an intended target of the raid, and not a bonus after-thought as described in most accounts.

White House NSC (emphasis mine)
Last night, at the President’s direction, U.S. personnel based out of Iraq conducted an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces.
Pentagon (emphasis mine)
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in a statement today that U.S. special operations forces yesterday conducted an operation in Syria to capture a senior leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorist organization.
“Last night, at the direction of the Commander in Chief, I ordered U.S. special operations forces to conduct an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf,” Carter said.
Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL's military operations and also helped direct the terrorist organization's illicit oil, gas and financial operations, the defense secretary said.
“Abu Sayyaf was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged U.S. forces,” he said.
“U.S. forces captured Umm Sayyaf, who we suspect is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL's terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night,” Carter said.
New York Times (emphasis mine)
American Special Operations forces mounted a rare raid into eastern Syria early Saturday, killing a leader of the Islamic State and about a dozen militant fighters, as well as capturing his wife
nowhere does it mention that she was an intended target of the raid (emphasis mine)
Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst now at the Brookings Institution, said the operation looked like “a collection mission, the goal to capture someone or two someones who can explain how ISIS works.” With Abu Sayyaf now dead, he said, “perhaps the wife can do that.”
McClatchy (selected)
Captured alive in the operation was the man’s wife, who officials identified as Umm Sayyaf. She was taken back to Iraq for questioning.
It was unclear what would become of Umm Sayyaf. In its statements, the Obama administration said it believed she was a member of the Islamic State
whether Umm Sayyaf could be charged with a crime was uncertain.
The United States will follow “its usual practice” and provide the International Committee of the Red Cross” access to Umm Sayyaf, Meehan said.
Read more here:
Emptywheel writes about Ron Wyden's "guess where John Brennan lied" and brings up Moon of Alabama's article asking about Syria's cooperation in the raid which is denied by everyone in every story.

Jeremy Scahill adds that this is part of the increase in ground troops in Syria

Additionally while searching for articles about the raid I found another Abu Sayyaf (Jama'ah Abu Sayyaf terror group) from the Philippines and another raid conducted this weekend

Straits Times
TUBURAN, Philippines (AFP) - Government forces in the southern Philippines said Saturday they were hunting a suspected Malaysian bomb-maker who may be helping the Abu Sayyaf extremists.
The suspect, identified as Mohammad Najib, is believed to have fled after troops overran one of their bomb-making camps on the southern island of Basilan on Thursday, said Colonel Joselito Rolando Bautista, the island's military commander.
Three militants and one soldier were killed when soldiers overran the camp of the Abu Sayyaf group, an armed band founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
Phil Star
MOHAMMED AJUL, Basilan — Government forces retook two villages from the control of the Abu Sayyaf group and a Malaysian bomb maker who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) after days of operations.
Barangay Tuburan Proper and Barangay Languyan, however, resemble ghost towns as more than 700 families have evacuated to other areas.
Houses were locked except for few civilians who dared to stay despite the presence of troops here Saturday.
The local police station, which was occupied by the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Ustadz Abbas Alam and Malaysian bombing suspect Mohammad Najib alias Anas, was also recovered earlier by the combined the Army's Scout Rangers and Special Forces at Barangay Tuburan.
The troops also cleared the adjacent village of Sitio Project Site where Alam and his Malaysian militant cohort converted his house into quarters for rebels and a makeshift bomb factory.
The clearing operation followed the offensive Thursday that left three militants killed and several others wounded.
The clearing was completed Saturday morning after it was rigged with several improved explosive devices, or IEDs, by militant groups who had slowed down the offensive since Thursday, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said.
The campaign left government forces with one soldier killed and eight others wounded.
Guerrero, who personally visited the troops and assessed the operation on ground, said soldiers recovered 50 pieces of pipe bomb casings fashioned with 4 x 12 inches of steel pipes, three liquefied gas tanks, an four-liter IED, radio transceivers, wires and other bomb equipment.
Also recovered were several "shahada" flags, known internationally as black flags similar to banners used by the ISIS.
Also I found that

Slate U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have stolen millions thru bribery, rigged contracts
Troops were selling the U.S. military’s fuel to Afghan locals on the side, and pocketing the proceeds.
Former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, who served as the principal watchdog for wrongdoing in Iraq from 2004 to 2013, said he suspected “the fraud … among U.S. military personnel and contractors was much higher” than what he and his colleagues were able to prosecute. John F. Sopko, his contemporary counterpart in Afghanistan, said his agency has probably uncovered less than half of the fraud committed by members of the military in Afghanistan.
 As of February, he said he had 327 active investigations still under way, involving 31 members of the military. “You don’t appreciate how much money is being stolen in Afghanistan until you go over there,” said Sopko, who says price-fixing and other forms of financial corruption are rampant in Afghanistan.

April 23, 2015 New York Times U.S. Weighs Training Iraqis to Call in American Airstrikes in ISIS Fight
A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the United States was looking for ways to speed up United States bombing attacks on Islamic State militants, including a plan to train Iraqi troops to spot targets for American airstrikes.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq complained during his visit to Washington last week that it had been taking too long for the United States to carry out airstrikes on behalf of Iraqi forces. But a major constraint to shortening the time to conduct such strikes is that the White House has not authorized troops to accompany Iraqi forces on the battlefield and call in American and allied bombing attacks.
Knowing what you know now, would you have invaded Iraq? Rand Paul and many others have another question for Hillary Clinton--knowing what you know now, would you have overthrown Gaddafi in Libya?

Read more here:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

2015 is our Superbowl says TASER

One of the popular solutions to police brutality seems simple.  Film the police.  (Another is non-lethal weapons like Tasers, but that is not entirely true either) Pass laws that put a body camera on every officer when they are on duty.  There's the study from California that "proves" how great they are at reducing violence by police and complaints by the public.

Although many police accountability activists argue for body cameras, we also acknowledge, even before Eric Garner, that video alone is not enough to guarantee justice.

Back in December Obama was considering asking for $263 million to study and buy body cameras. Now the program is still going forward, but the total has dropped to $75 million over 3 years.
The Justice Department announced it is providing $20 million to police departments for body cameras, the first installment in a three-year program budgeted at $75 million.
"Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the program will help jurisdictions with the purchase of 50,000 body-worn cameras and provide evaluations of how well the program works.
Hillary Clinton is on board
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the United States should make sure every police department has body cameras.
clarification of what the program will do (DOJ press release and fact sheet, however here are the full details by BJA)
The federal funding will match local funds and be available only to departments that already have body camera policies in place, the Justice Department said in a fact sheet.
It will match funds dedicated to buying cameras and training police on how to use them, but not for storage of the footage they capture, which can often make up the bulk of the cost.
Applicants for grant money for body cameras have to meet the requirements and apply before June 16th to be eligible.

The Program will be run by
the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) under the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP)
So everyone agrees moving forward with funding body cameras for police is a great idea to address police brutality and civilian complaints, including TASER, the non-lethal weapon maker and body camera company.

2014 Annual Report 
Our bookings of new business grew nearly 300% from $14 million in 2013 to $57 million in 2014. And we won every major city account which made a new system selection for wearable video in 2014.
We have said that 2015 is our Superbowl; we are out to win the largest accounts in the United States in on-officer video and to enable our platform to become the first technology platform that is ubiquitous across the public safety community. Growth is exciting but in truth, our zeal for technology is based on our passion for what our customers do every single day: protecting life and protecting truth. 
Luke Larson is the Chief Marketing Officer and President of TASER since April 6th 2015 and is an Iraq war veteran.  But why is he getting 10,000 stock shares base on how much body camera footage is uploaded to TASER's website?

see footnote for Luke Larson (page 35, PDF page 43)
(9) These stock awards are performance-based, and vest in full when a specified threshold is met related to camera video uploads into
What IS the threshold?

TASER's video discussing their own grant program for police explains that storing body camera footage on dvds is clumsy when you need to share footage as evidence.  It also prevents Luke Larson from getting his threshold met.

Bloomberg: May 1, 2015 TASER stock "closed at a 10-year high Friday as the federal government said it planned to spend $20 million on such devices for police departments.....The shares rose 7.2 percent to close at $32.37 on Friday, their highest point since December 2004.

SCANDAL! Yahoo: "Abandoning a practice that has faced criticism, Taser International will no longer hire police chiefs with whom it has business relationships within weeks or months after they leave public service......In all three cases, their departments had signed major contracts with Taser to purchase body cameras and video storage software, Within months, the former chiefs were paid to travel and speak about how those tools were the future of policing"

Atlantic The Big Money in Police Body Cameras: Taser International stands to profit enormously from the country's fast adoption of police-worn cameras.

CNETUnrest in Baltimore means big business for Taser
shares have risen more than 160 percent since the August shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. -- better than some of the largest tech companies in Silicon Valley, including Apple, whose iPhones propelled its shares more than 36 percent over the same time, and video streaming service Netflix, whose shares have risen nearly 25 percent. Shares of a Taser competitor, Digital Ally, have risen nearly fourfold.
Let TASER make money for a good product.  But there has to be more competition.  They are cornering the market right now.

Can we do public safety without capitalism (and politics) please? Once?