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JFP 7/1: Yemen May Ban Drone Strikes; Snowden Revelations Roil Europe
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 1 July 2013 - 7:51pm
Just Foreign Policy News, July 1, 2013
Yemen May Ban Drone Strikes; Snowden Revelations Roil Europe
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Celebrities, Whistleblowers Lead Petition to Ecuador for Snowden's Political Asylum
Petition Has Over 23,000 Signers
Oliver Stone, Danny Glover, John Cusack, Amber Heard, Shia LaBeouf, Roseanne Barr, and musician Boots Riley have joined Vietnam War whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and Iraq War whistle-blower Joe Wilson, author Noam Chomsky and many other prominent whistle-blowers, activists, former intelligence and military officers, academics and others in calling on Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to grant whistle-blower Edward Snowden political asylum.
Yemen's "Schoolhouse Rock" vs. the "War on Terror": A Conversation With Baraa Shiban
Baraa Shiban says Yemen's National Dialogue Conference – Yemen's Constitutional Convention, as it were – may prohibit drone strikes in the country. This proposal may be voted on in the next few days. Baraa says he is confident that it will be approved. On Tuesday, June 25, I conducted the following interview with Baraa via Skype.
RootsAction/Just Foreign Policy: Hands Off Snowden!
If you haven't yet emailed the White House, please do it now.
Beverly Bell: Fault Lines: Views across Haiti's Divide
Now available from Cornell University Press. Beverly Bell's account of the first year after the Haitian earthquake explores how communities and gift culture helped Haitians survive an unimaginable disaster.
1) Director Oliver Stone is joining with such notables as Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, former Ambassador Joe Wilson and Tom Hayden to encourage Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to grant Edward Snowden's asylum request, Politico reports. In a letter posted on the Just Foreign Policy website, the signatories pen a letter to Correa and write, "Snowden's disclosures have already done much to unveil the alarming scale of U.S. government spying on its own citizens and on people around the world."
2) A bipartisan group of 26 US senators has written to intelligence chiefs to complain that the administration is relying on a "secret body of law" to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens, the Guardian reports. The senators accuse officials of making misleading statements and demand that the director of national intelligence James Clapper answer a series of specific questions on the scale of domestic surveillance as well as the legal justification for it. In their strongly-worded letter to Clapper, the senators said they believed the government may be misinterpreting existing legislation to justify the sweeping collection of telephone and internet data.
3) The leaders of France and Germany added their voices on Monday to the growing outrage over reports that the United States has been spying on its European Union allies, raising new suggestions that talks on a new trans-Atlantic trade agreement may be at risk, the New York Times reports. President François Hollande told reporters "we cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies." He said the spying should "immediately stop."
The loudest criticism came from Germany, the Times says. "If the media reports are accurate, then this recalls the methods used by enemies during the cold war," said the German justice minister. "It is beyond comprehension that our friends in the United States see Europeans as enemies."
The new documents suggest that the intent of the eavesdropping against the EU's office in Washington was to gather inside knowledge of policy differences on global issues and other potential disagreements among member countries, the Times says.
4) If Snowden had never existed, we would not know how the N.S.A., through its Prism and other programs, has become, in the words of the NYT's James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, "the virtual landlord of the digital assets of Americans and foreigners alike," writes Roger Cohen for the New York Times. We would not know how it has been able to access the e-mails or Facebook accounts or videos of citizens across the world; nor how it has secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; nor how through requests to the compliant and secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court it has been able to bend nine U.S. Internet companies to its demands for access to clients' digital information. We would not have legislation to bolster privacy safeguards and require more oversight introduced by Senator Leahy. A long-overdue debate about what the U.S. government does and does not do in the name of post-9/11 security - the standards applied in the F.I.S.A. court, the safeguards and oversight surrounding it and the Prism program, the protection of civil liberties against the devouring appetites of intelligence agencies armed with new data-crunching technology - would not have occurred.
5) White House claims that everything revealed by Snowden is legal are wrong, write Jennifer Stisa Granick of Stanford and Christopher Jon Sprigman of the University of Virginia School of Law in the New York Times. Two programs exposed by Snowden violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law. No statute explicitly authorizes mass surveillance. Through a series of legal contortions, the Obama administration has argued that Congress, since 9/11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance. But this strategy mostly consists of wordplay, fear-mongering and a highly selective reading of the law.
In October 2001, lawmakers never contemplated that Section 215 of the Patriot Act would be used for phone metadata, or for mass surveillance of any sort, they write. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and one of the architects of the Patriot Act, and a man not known as a civil libertarian, has said that "Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations." The N.S.A.'s demand for information about every American's phone calls isn't "targeted" at all - it's a dragnet. "How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?" Sensenbrenner has asked. The answer is simple: It's not.
6) Anonymous government officials have been going to compliant media outlets to complain that Snowden's revelations have made it easier for terrorists to evade capture, notes Peter Hart for FAIR. If this were really happening, one would hope government officials would say so on the record. Instead, we have secret official sources telling us about how well their secret program was working until a whistleblower's revelations tipped off terrorists that their communications might be being monitored. More media skepticism is in order, Hart notes.
7) Iran's president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, said Saturday that he would engage with the West and fulfill his electoral promises to allow more freedom for the Iranian people, the New York Times reports. Rouhani, who calls himself a moderate, won the June 14 presidential election by a large margin, surprising many who expected Iran's governing establishment to block any candidate calling for change.
Many Iranians are carefully optimistic about Rouhani, the Times says. Last week, Iran's currency gained strength against the dollar. Business owners said they were hopeful that he would address domestic economic problems and possibly find a way to ease the international sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
8) Mohammed Assaf – the Palestinian winner of Arab Idol and maybe the most talked about resident of Gaza in the world today - will perform in Ramallah, notes the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, which campaigns for freedom of movement of Palestinians from Gaza. Now that he's an international superstar, Israeli checkpoints and crossings barring his travel open up to him. But other Palestinians from Gaza, the ones who didn't take the prize on Arab Idol, won't be able to travel to his concert in the West Bank.
1) Oliver Stone, stars push for Snowden asylum
Patrick Gavin, Politico, June 28, 2013 10:50 AM EDT
Director Oliver Stone is joining with such notables as Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, former Ambassador Joe Wilson and Tom Hayden to encourage Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to grant Edward Snowden's asylum request.
In a letter posted on the Just Foreign Policy website, the signatories pen a letter to Correa and write, "Snowden's disclosures have already done much to unveil the alarming scale of U.S. government spying on its own citizens and on people around the world."
"They have revealed severe overreach by the U.S.' National Security Agency (NSA), which seeks to gather an overwhelming and invasive amount of information on people within the United States. Snowden has also revealed that the constant NSA surveillance also applies to millions of people outside the U.S., whose phone calls, emails and other communications are also indiscriminately targeted."
The letter is also signed by some actors, including Danny Glover, Amber Heard, Shia LaBeouf, John Cusack and Roseanne Barr.
The letter concludes by saying that "rather than pursue reforms that would protect the rights of people in the U.S. and around the world, the Obama administration again seeks to silence those who have brought these abuses to light. These are actions of political repression, and you would be right to grant Snowden political asylum."
Just Foreign Policy describes itself as "an independent and nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy by mobilizing and organizing the broad majority of Americans who want a foreign policy based on diplomacy, law and cooperation."
2) Senators accuse government of using 'secret law' to collect Americans' data
Bipartisan group seeks answers from intelligence chief James Clapper over scale of and justification for NSA surveillance
Dan Roberts, Guardian, Friday 28 June 2013 12.39 EDT
Washington - A bipartisan group of 26 US senators has written to intelligence chiefs to complain that the administration is relying on a "secret body of law" to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens.
The senators accuse officials of making misleading statements and demand that the director of national intelligence James Clapper answer a series of specific questions on the scale of domestic surveillance as well as the legal justification for it.
In their strongly-worded letter to Clapper, the senators said they believed the government may be misinterpreting existing legislation to justify the sweeping collection of telephone and internet data revealed by the Guardian.
"We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law," they say.
"This and misleading statements by intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly."
This is the strongest attack yet from Congress since the disclosures began, and comes after Clapper admitted he had given "the least untruthful answer possible" when pushed on these issues by Senators at a hearing before the latest revelations by the Guardian and the Washington Post.
In a press statement, the group of senators added: "The recent public disclosures of secret government surveillance programs have exposed how secret interpretations of the USA Patriot Act have allowed for the bulk collection of massive amounts of data on the communications of ordinary Americans with no connection to wrongdoing."
They said: "Reliance on secret law to conduct domestic surveillance activities raises serious civil liberty concerns and all but removes the public from an informed national security and civil liberty debate."
The letter was organised by Oregan Democrat Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee, but includes four Republican senators: Mark Kirk, Mike Lee, Lisa Murkowski and Dean Heller.
They ask Clapper to publicly provide information about the duration and scope of the program and provide examples of its effectiveness in providing unique intelligence, if such examples exist.
3) France and Germany Piqued Over Spying Scandal
Stephen Castle and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, July 1, 2013
London - The leaders of France and Germany added their voices on Monday to the growing outrage over reports that the United States has been spying on its European Union allies, raising new suggestions that talks on a new trans-Atlantic trade agreement may be at risk.
President François Hollande of France issued some of the harshest language from a European leader, telling reporters during a visit in northwestern France that "we cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies." He said the spying should "immediately stop."
In Berlin, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Steffen Seibert, echoed Mr. Hollande's anger over the eavesdropping. "We're not in the cold war anymore," he told reporters.
Mr. Hollande hinted that talks on a new trans-Atlantic trade pact, scheduled to start next week, should be delayed until questions over the spying issue were resolved. "We can only have negotiations, transactions, in all areas once we have obtained these guarantees for France, but that goes for the whole European Union, and I would say for all partners of the United States," he said, according to a translation of his remarks reported by The Associated Press.
The latest accusations surfaced in the online edition of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which reported on Saturday that American agencies had monitored the offices of the European Union in New York and Washington. Der Spiegel said information about the spying appeared in documents that were obtained by Edward J. Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor, and were seen in part by the magazine.
On Sunday, the online edition of The Guardian in Britain reported additional details about the surveillance program. The newspaper said that one document it had obtained listed 38 embassies and diplomatic missions in Washington and New York, describing them as "targets." It detailed a broad range of spying methods used against one, including bugs implanted in electronic communications gear and the collection of transmissions using specialized antennas.
The list of targets included the European Union's missions and the French, Italian and Greek Embassies, as well as those of several other American allies, including India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey, The Guardian reported.
The reports came at a time when there was already considerable tension between the United States and its European allies over Mr. Snowden's earlier revelations of apparent American spying on officials of allied governments and the gathering of data on electronic communications by millions of people around the world.
In the latest accusations, the documents seen by The Guardian suggest that the intent of the eavesdropping against the union's office in Washington was to gather inside knowledge of policy differences on global issues and other potential disagreements among member countries, the newspaper said. Catherine Ashton, the union's top foreign policy official, said in a written statement on Sunday that the union was seeking "urgent clarification of the veracity of and facts surrounding these allegations."
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said in a statement that he was "deeply worried and shocked." He added, "If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter, which will have a severe impact on E.U.-U.S. relations."
The United States and the European Union are scheduled to complete talks on the trans-Atlantic trade agreement by November 2014. Those talks are threatened by the spying accusations, according to Viviane Reding, the European Union's commissioner for justice.
"We cannot negotiate over a big trans-Atlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators," Ms. Reding said at a meeting in Luxembourg on Sunday. "The American authorities should eliminate any such doubt swiftly."
According to Der Spiegel, the N.S.A. installed listening devices in European Union diplomatic offices in downtown Washington and tapped into its computer network. The Guardian reported that the eavesdropping involved three different operations focused on the office's 90 staff members. Two were electronic implants, and one involved the use of antennas to collect transmissions.
"In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in E.U. rooms, as well as e-mails and internal documents on computers," Der Spiegel reported.
In France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday that the government had urgently demanded an explanation from the American authorities. The reported American spying, if confirmed, would be "completely unacceptable," he said in a statement.
The loudest criticism came from Germany, which was not on the published list of target countries. Privacy issues are a matter of political significance there.
"If the media reports are accurate, then this recalls the methods used by enemies during the cold war," said the German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, according to The Associated Press. "It is beyond comprehension that our friends in the United States see Europeans as enemies."
4) The Service of Snowden
Roger Cohen, New York Times, June 27, 2013
Perhaps one way to assess what he has done is to imagine how things would stand if he had never existed. I am not big on counterfactuals - hypothetical history is at once tantalizing and meaningless - but in this case the exercise may be useful.
We would not know how the N.S.A., through its Prism and other programs, has become, in the words of my colleagues James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, "the virtual landlord of the digital assets of Americans and foreigners alike." We would not know how it has been able to access the e-mails or Facebook accounts or videos of citizens across the world; nor how it has secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; nor how through requests to the compliant and secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (F.I.S.A.) it has been able to bend nine U.S. Internet companies to its demands for access to clients' digital information.
We would not be debating whether the United States really should have turned surveillance into big business, offering data-mining contracts to the likes of Booz Allen and, in the process, high-level security clearance to myriad folk who probably should not have it. We would not have a serious debate at last between Europeans, with their more stringent views on privacy, and Americans about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.
We would not have legislation to bolster privacy safeguards and require more oversight introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Nor would we have a letter from two Democrats to the N.S.A. director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, saying that a government fact sheet about surveillance abroad "contains an inaccurate statement" (and where does that assertion leave Alexander's claims of the effectiveness and necessity of Prism?).
In short, a long-overdue debate about what the U.S. government does and does not do in the name of post-9/11 security - the standards applied in the F.I.S.A. court, the safeguards and oversight surrounding it and the Prism program, the protection of civil liberties against the devouring appetites of intelligence agencies armed with new data-crunching technology - would not have occurred, at least not now.
All this was needed because, since it was attacked in an unimaginable way, the United States has gone through a Great Disorientation. Institutions at the core of the checks and balances that frame American democracy and civil liberties failed. Congress gave a blank check to the president to wage war wherever and whenever he pleased. The press scarcely questioned the march to a war in Iraq begun under false pretenses. Guantánamo made a mockery of due process. The United States, in Obama's own words, compromised its "basic values" as the president gained "unbound powers." Snowden's phrase, "turnkey tyranny," was over the top but still troubling.
One of the most striking aspects of the Obama presidency has been the vast distance between his rhetoric on these issues since 2008 and any rectifying action. If anything he has doubled-down on security at the expense of Americans' supposedly inalienable rights: Hence the importance of a whistleblower.
5) The Criminal N.S.A.
Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman, New York Times, June 27, 2013
[Granick is director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. Sprigman is professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.]
The twin revelations that telecom carriers have been secretly giving the National Security Agency information about Americans' phone calls, and that the N.S.A. has been capturing e-mail and other private communications from Internet companies as part of a secret program called Prism, have not enraged most Americans. Lulled, perhaps, by the Obama administration's claims that these "modest encroachments on privacy" were approved by Congress and by federal judges, public opinion quickly migrated from shock to "meh."
It didn't help that Congressional watchdogs - with a few exceptions, like Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky - have accepted the White House's claims of legality. The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, have called the surveillance legal. So have liberal-leaning commentators like Hendrik Hertzberg and David Ignatius.
This view is wrong - and not only, or even mainly, because of the privacy issues raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics. The two programs violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law. No statute explicitly authorizes mass surveillance. Through a series of legal contortions, the Obama administration has argued that Congress, since 9/11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance. But this strategy mostly consists of wordplay, fear-mongering and a highly selective reading of the law. Americans deserve better from the White House - and from President Obama, who has seemingly forgotten the constitutional law he once taught.
The administration has defended each of the two secret programs. Let's examine them in turn.
Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contract employee and whistle-blower, has provided evidence that the government has phone record metadata on all Verizon customers, and probably on every American, going back seven years. This metadata is extremely revealing; investigators mining it might be able to infer whether we have an illness or an addiction, what our religious affiliations and political activities are, and so on.
The law under which the government collected this data, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allows the F.B.I. to obtain court orders demanding that a person or company produce "tangible things," upon showing reasonable grounds that the things sought are "relevant" to an authorized foreign intelligence investigation. The F.B.I. does not need to demonstrate probable cause that a crime has been committed, or any connection to terrorism.
Even in the fearful time when the Patriot Act was enacted, in October 2001, lawmakers never contemplated that Section 215 would be used for phone metadata, or for mass surveillance of any sort. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and one of the architects of the Patriot Act, and a man not known as a civil libertarian, has said that "Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations." The N.S.A.'s demand for information about every American's phone calls isn't "targeted" at all - it's a dragnet. "How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?" Mr. Sensenbrenner has asked. The answer is simple: It's not.
The government claims that under Section 215 it may seize all of our phone call information now because it might conceivably be relevant to an investigation at some later date, even if there is no particular reason to believe that any but a tiny fraction of the data collected might possibly be suspicious. That is a shockingly flimsy argument - any data might be "relevant" to an investigation eventually, if by "eventually" you mean "sometime before the end of time." If all data is "relevant," it makes a mockery of the already shaky concept of relevance.
Let's turn to Prism: the streamlined, electronic seizure of communications from Internet companies. In combination with what we have already learned about the N.S.A.'s access to telecommunications and Internet infrastructure, Prism is further proof that the agency is collecting vast amounts of e-mails and other messages - including communications to, from and between Americans.
The government justifies Prism under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Section 1881a of the act gave the president broad authority to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance. If the attorney general and the director of national intelligence certify that the purpose of the monitoring is to collect foreign intelligence information about any nonAmerican individual or entity not known to be in the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can require companies to provide access to Americans' international communications. The court does not approve the target or the facilities to be monitored, nor does it assess whether the government is doing enough to minimize the intrusion, correct for collection mistakes and protect privacy. Once the court issues a surveillance order, the government can issue top-secret directives to Internet companies like Google and Facebook to turn over calls, e-mails, video and voice chats, photos, voiceover IP calls (like Skype) and social networking information.
Like the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act gives the government very broad surveillance authority. And yet the Prism program appears to outstrip that authority. In particular, the government "may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States."
The government knows that it regularly obtains Americans' protected communications. The Washington Post reported that Prism is designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target's "foreignness" - as John Oliver of "The Daily Show" put it, "a coin flip plus 1 percent." By turning a blind eye to the fact that 49-plus percent of the communications might be purely among Americans, the N.S.A. has intentionally acquired information it is not allowed to have, even under the terrifyingly broad auspices of the FISA Amendments Act.
How could vacuuming up Americans' communications conform with this legal limitation? Well, as James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told Andrea Mitchell of NBC, the N.S.A. uses the word "acquire" only when it pulls information out of its gigantic database of communications and not when it first intercepts and stores the information.
If there's a law against torturing the English language, James Clapper is in real trouble.
The administration hides the extent of its "incidental" surveillance of Americans behind fuzzy language. When Congress reauthorized the law at the end of 2012, legislators said Americans had nothing to worry about because the surveillance could not "target" American citizens or permanent residents. Mr. Clapper offered the same assurances. Based on these statements, an ordinary citizen might think the N.S.A. cannot read Americans' e-mails or online chats under the F.A.A. But that is a government fed misunderstanding.
A "target" under the act is a person or entity the government wants information on - not the people the government is trying to listen to. It's actually O.K. under the act to grab Americans' messages so long as they are communicating with the target, or anyone who is not in the United States.
Leave aside the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act for a moment, and turn to the Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment obliges the government to demonstrate probable cause before conducting invasive surveillance. There is simply no precedent under the Constitution for the government's seizing such vast amounts of revealing data on innocent Americans' communications.
The government has made a mockery of that protection by relying on select Supreme Court cases, decided before the era of the public Internet and cellphones, to argue that citizens have no expectation of privacy in either phone metadata or in e-mails or other private electronic messages that it stores with third parties.
This hairsplitting is inimical to privacy and contrary to what at least five justices ruled just last year in a case called United States v. Jones. One of the most conservative justices on the Court, Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote that where even public information about individuals is monitored over the long term, at some point, government crosses a line and must comply with the protections of the Fourth Amendment. That principle is, if anything, even more true for Americans' sensitive nonpublic information like phone metadata and social networking activity.
We may never know all the details of the mass surveillance programs, but we know this: The administration has justified them through abuse of language, intentional evasion of statutory protections, secret, unreviewable investigative procedures and constitutional arguments that make a mockery of the government's professed concern with protecting Americans' privacy. It's time to call the N.S.A.'s mass surveillance programs what they are: criminal.
6) Snowden Is Helping Terrorists (But Don't Quote Me on That)
Peter Hart, FAIR, June 27, 2013
It looks like we might be on to a new phase in the Edward Snowden saga: anonymous government officials going to compliant media outlets to complain that his revelations have made it easier for terrorists to evade capture.
A June 25 piece in the Washington Post included comments from several anonymous U.S. officials. One guaranteed that the Russians and Chinese have seen Snowden's files. More ominously, though, was the message from another unnamed official, who told the paper's Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller that Snowden's leaks could be helping the terrorists:
'A second senior intelligence official said there were concerns that disclosure of U.S. surveillance methods would make it easier for terrorist groups to avoid detection. "The more material that gets made public, the more capability we lose," the official said.
Already, several terrorist groups in various regions of the world have begun to change their method of communication based on disclosures of surveillance programs in the media, the official said. He would not elaborate on the communication modes.
"It's frustrating," he said. "Because if they find some other method to communicate, we go dark. And we miss dots. That's not something we're particularly excited about."'
That was exactly the same point that CNN Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr advanced in a piece headlined, "Terrorists Try Changes After Snowden Leaks, Official Says" (6/25/13). She reported:
'"We can confirm we are seeing indications that several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communications behaviors based specifically on what they are reading about our surveillance programs in the media," a U.S. intelligence official told CNN.'
But the Associated Press's Kimberly Dozier (6/26/13) had an even more alarmist take. Under the headline, "Al-Qaeda Said to Be Changing Its Ways After Leaks," the report dramatically claims that "U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of Al-Qaeda and other terrorists." Relying on more sources who cannot be named, the AP reports that "members of virtually every terrorist group, including core Al-Qaeda members, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media."
Now, if this was really happening, you would hope government officials would say so on the record. Instead, we have secret official sources telling us about how well their secret program was working until a whistleblower's revelations tipped off terrorists that their communications might be being monitored.
A little more skepticism is in order.
7) President-Elect of Iran Says He Will Engage With the West
Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times, June 29, 2013
Tehran - Iran's president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, said Saturday that he would engage with the West and fulfill his electoral promises to allow more freedom for the Iranian people.
Mr. Rouhani, who calls himself a moderate, won the June 14 presidential election by a large margin, surprising many who expected Iran's governing establishment to block any candidate calling for change. Hinting at the revolutions that have ousted several leaders in the Middle East, Mr. Rouhani emphasized that it was important to listen to the "majority of Iranians."
"In our region, there were some countries who miscalculated their positions, and you have witnessed what happened to them," he said during a live broadcast of a conference organized by Voice and Vision, Iran's state television and radio organization.
"The world is in a transitional mood, and a new order has yet to be established," he said. "If we miscalculate our national situation, it will be detrimental for us."
He also said Iran should not hesitate to criticize the Syrian government for some of its actions in its war against rebels seeking to oust it. While Iranian officials have staunchly defended Iran's support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Mr. Rouhani warned against a double standard in international affairs.
"We should not describe as oppressive brutal actions in an enemy country while refraining from calling the same actions oppressive if they take place in a friendly country," he said. "Brutality must be called brutality."
Mr. Rouhani appealed for more moderation in foreign and domestic policies and praised the police for tolerating recent street celebrations over his election victory and for Iran's soccer team.
He also hinted that he would consider loosening some of the restrictions imposed by the much-loathed morality police, who arrest people for wearing "improper clothing" or not observing Islamic codes strictly. "Happiness is our people's right," he said. "We should not be strict toward the people. People follow the morality codes by themselves and are careful about them."
Mr. Rouhani, who will be sworn in on Aug. 3, reminded those opposing change in Iran that the election was also a referendum on the country's future.
"The majority of Iranian people voted for moderation, collective wisdom, insight and consultation," he said. "Everybody should accept the people's vote - the government should accept the people's vote. The people have chosen a new path."
Many Iranians are carefully optimistic about Mr. Rouhani. Last week, Iran's currency gained strength against the dollar. Business owners said they were hopeful that he would address domestic economic problems and possibly find a way to ease the international sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
Mr. Rouhani also appealed for a more open state news media. "The age of monologue media is over; media should be interactive," he said. In Iran, millions of Web sites are blocked, and the state news media has a monopoly, while the authorities use radio waves to block satellite transmissions from abroad. "In a country whose legitimacy is rooted in its people, then there is no fear from free media," he said.
8) Mohammed Assaf's not in Gaza anymore
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement (Tel Aviv), July 1, 2013
Tonight around 8:30pm, thousands of Palestinians will pour into the Muqataa in Ramallah. They will be there to listen to Mohammed Assaf – the Palestinian winner of Arab Idol and maybe the most talked about resident of Gaza in the world today.
Assaf's journey, from the Khan Yunis refugee camp to Cairo and from there to his audition for Arab Idol, is already a legend in its own right. He didn't meet Egypt's criteria to leave Gaza via Rafah and so, the story goes, had to bribe the border guards. The normally 8-hour trip from Rafah to Cairo allegedly took two days because of checkpoints he had to cross in Sinai. He arrived late to the hotel where auditions were being held, so climbed the hotel walls (in other versions it's a gate). When the hotel security guards caught him, he apparently burst into song which softened them up and led them to let him in. All this and Assaf still missed the distribution of audition numbers, said to number in the thousands. At this point, accounts differ: some say he met another contestant from Gaza who decided to give up his place in line for Assaf, others tell that the contestant, who had heard Assaf sing to the guards outside, felt compelled to give Assaf his own number.
It's hard to know what the real story is, but only someone from the Gaza Strip, where movement restrictions are such an inextricable part of life, could amass this much mythology.
Tonight Assaf will perform in Ramallah. Suddenly and once he's an international superstar, the checkpoints and crossings barring his travel open up to him. He's not just a 23-year-old kid from Gaza anymore. Suddenly he can enter the West Bank and even his parents can get permits to travel. Suddenly he doesn't have to meet the Israeli army's "humanitarian-only" criteria, or be a football player on the Palestinian national team, or a senior trader. Other Palestinians from Gaza, the ones who didn't take the prize on Arab Idol, won't be able to travel to his concert in the West Bank. They'll be in Gaza, waiting for their own lucky break.
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