Just Foreign Policy News, July 10, 2012
Close Presbyterian Vote on Divestment Shows Likudniks Losing Middle America
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Action: Urge @Sweden to Oppose Extradition of Julian Assange for Publishing US Diplomatic Cables
Over seven thousand people have signed our petition to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa urging him to grant Julian Assange’s request for political asylum from the threat of US prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his role in the publication of U.S. diplomatic cables.
Now we are appealing to people in Sweden to oppose the threatened extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publishing US diplomatic cables. Join us in our effort to engage Swedish public opinion.
Close Presbyterian Vote on Selective Divestment Shows Likudniks Losing Middle America
Last Thursday night, by what the Christian Science Monitor called the "thinnest of margins" the General Assembly of the 1.9 million member Presbyterian Church USA failed to approve a resolution requiring the church to divest its $20 million investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard over the ties of these companies to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. The vote at the PCUSA’s General Assembly in Pittsburgh was 333-to-331. In percentage terms, 49.85% were in favor of selective divestment from the Israeli occupation and 50.15% were opposed. In addition, the Presbyterians, like the Methodists, voted overwhelmingly to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The clear trend is that if the status quo of occupation continues, more and more American institutions will see ways to build effective pressure to bring down the occupation.
Post and share Just Foreign Policy’s Haiti cholera counter:
Tracks deaths, cases, and the number of days that have passed since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Current: 7450 dead, 583,164 ill, 633 days. And still the UN refuses to apologize or take responsibility.
1) Writing in the Guardian, Iceland parliamentarian and WikiLeaks supporter Birgitta Jónsdóttir says she knows from direct personal legal experience that the US is legally pursuing WikiLeaks supporters. She concludes that Julian Assange’s fears of US prosecution are justified.
2) Swedish officials have claimed that it would not be legal for a Swedish prosecutor to question Julian Assange in Britain, WL Central reports. But they have refused to explain why, nor the discrepancy with other cases in which Sweden has done so; nor the contradiction between their statements and the EU’s "Mutual Legal Assistance" common legal practice.
3) If there is one number that embodies the failure of the drug war, it is $177.26, writes Eduardo Porter in the New York Times. That is the average US street price, according to DEA data, of one gram of pure cocaine. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago. The fall in price with no fall in demand indicates an increase in supply, so all the interdiction, arrests, imprisonment and killing are not cutting into supply. A war on drugs whose objective is to eradicate the drug market – to stop drugs from arriving in the US and stop Americans from swallowing, smoking, inhaling or injecting them – is a war that cannot be won. What we care about is the harm that drugs, drug trafficking and drug policy do to individuals, society and even national security. Reducing this harm is a goal worth fighting for.
4) The UN’s expert on extrajudicial killings has described the CIA tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers and funeral-goers in its Pakistan drone strikes as a war crime, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports.
5) In negotiations over the "Trans-Pacific Partnership" agreement, US officials have proposed new rights for Big Pharma and pushed into the text aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act, writes Lori Wallach in The Nation. US negotiators are pushing to expand NAFTA’s notorious corporate tribunals, which have been used to attack domestic public interest laws. How could something this extreme have gotten so far? The process has been shockingly secretive. When challenged on the secrecy, Trade Representative Kirk noted that after release of the FTAA text in 2001, that deal could not be completed. In other words, the official in charge of the TPP says the only way to complete the deal is to keep it secret from the people who would have to live with the results.
6) New questions have been raised about whether US supporters of the Iranian MEK who have lobbied for its removal from the State Department’s terrorist list should have registered under the law as lobbyists or agents of a foreign entity, the Washington Post reports. Under federal law, advocates for foreign organizations are required to register as lobbyists and provide details about their clients and income. But the MEK supporters have not registered, which would require disclosing the amounts they are paid and the identities of officials with whom they meet.
Scholars of lobbying regulations say the contacts with administration officials easily meet the definition of lobbying under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a law that has sometimes led to criminal charges. "The law applies to anyone engaged in political or lobbying activity – or even propaganda – on behalf of a foreign ‘principal,’ a term that is defined broadly," said David Cole, a professor and expert on criminal and constitutional law at Georgetown University Law School. "It’s a very low bar."
7) A video has surfaced online that appears to show a US helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile, the Guardian reports. The posting says the video was recorded in Wardak province, which lies south-west of the capital, Kabul, in September 2009.
8) A new book claims Israel’s spy agency dispatched assassins into Iran, as part of a campaign to sabotage the country’s nuclear program, AP reports. Israeli operatives have killed at least four Iranian nuclear scientists, including targeting them with operatives on motorcycles, an assassination technique used by the Israeli spy service, the Mossad, according to authors Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman. The authors disputed media reports that have suggested that the Mossad paid intermediaries to carry out the killings, saying the Mossad would not "farm out" such a sensitive mission.
9) An Israeli government-appointed commission said Israel’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts, the New York Times reports. Netanyahu formed the committee in January, under pressure from settler leaders who wanted a counter to a highly critical 2005 report on the outposts commissioned by the government of Ariel Sharon. Israeli human rights organizations opposed to settlement slammed the report.
10) Uruguay’s president has made it clear that his plan for legalizing marijuana in the South American nation does not mean he favors legalizing any other illicit drugs, AP reports. President Mujica said the plan is for the government to sell marijuana at a cheap and reasonable price then monitor what each consumer uses. The idea is to take drug profits out of the hands of criminals. Mujica says that while drug addiction is a medical problem, drug trafficking is an unwinnable police problem. Uruguay would be the world’s first nation to sell marijuana directly.
1) Evidence of a US judicial vendetta against WikiLeaks activists mounts
Iceland’s government warns me not to visit the US, which tried to hack my Twitter account: Julian Assange has legitimate fears
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Guardian, Tuesday 3 July 2012 14.45 EDT
[Jónsdóttir is a member of parliament in Iceland.]
I knew when I put down my name as co-producer of a video, released by WikiLeaks, showing United States soldiers shooting civilians in Baghdad from a helicopter that my life would never be the same. Telling the truth during times of universal deceit might be considered a revolutionary act, but only to those who want to keep us in the dark, not by those who feel compelled to do so.
[…] The US Department of Justice (DoJ) tried to hack by legal means into my social media accounts without my knowledge. But they were exposed by Twitter’s legal team who manged to unseal the DoJ’s secret document and give me a chance to defend in court my personal information from being used in a dragnet for the first serious attacks on WikiLeaks’ supporters and volunteers. I still am not sure why they chose to take the risk of going after a member of Iceland’s parliament, because it has caused distress among fellow parliamentarians from around the world. As a result of the speaker of the Icelandic parliament raising the issue at the International Parliamentarian Union (IPU), I was asked to appear for the human rights committee at the IPU to explain the details of my case. A resolution on my case was put forward and adopted unanimously by the IPU’s governing council, in October 2011.
[…] In November 2011, Judge Liam O’Grady expressed an interesting opinion when discussing his ruling in my case – something that has escaped the attention of those who say Assange is overreacting to the threat of possible extradition to the US:
"The [my Twitter] information sought was clearly material to establishing key facts related to an ongoing investigation and would have assisted a grand jury in conducting an inquiry into the particular matters under investigation."
During my second meeting at the Icelandic State Department to discuss my Twitter case, I got a message from the newly appointed US Ambassador Luis E Arreaga, delivered by the assistant of the foreign affairs minister in Iceland. Ambassador Arreaga had been instructed by the US department of justice to give me the following verbal message: a) I would not be subjected to involuntary interrogation; b) I was free to travel to the US; c) I was not subject to criminal investigation.
Despite this message, the Icelandic State Department strongly advised me against traveling to the US; the same applied to my EFF and ACLU legal advisers. Shortly after this message, their caution proved to have been prudent because my lawyers spotted at least two sealed grand jury documents relating to me when requesting access to all documents pertaining to my case. Of course, I have not been able to find out what these documents entail.
On Monday, news broke that the US Department of Justice had confirmed that WikiLeaks remains the object of an ongoing criminal investigation. The US army has confirmed that it is investigating the Bradley Manning Support Network, an international activism group that advocates on behalf of the imprisoned accused whistleblower. I happen to have been one of the early supporters in this network; and I have to consider whether I am also a target of that investigation.
The WTF (the CIA’s WikiLeaks Task Force) has been building a case against Assange and others from WikiLeaks for two years. There is no doubt there is a grand jury in action. There is no doubt that the US wants to get even with WikiLeaks. Assange has every reason to worry about being extradited to the US, be it from Britain or Sweden, or any country that cannot or will not give him a guarantee against extradition. The best possible solution to the current situation is for Sweden to provide such guarantees. If there were the will, it could be done.
2) 2012-07-07 Sweden’s ‘reinterpretation’ of MLA law
m_cetera, WL Central, Fri, 07/06/2012
Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) is a common legal practice in the European Union. It is an agreement between two countries to help cooperation during investigation of alleged crimes. The EU’s website states "mutual legal assistance and agreements on extradition are essential for the EU in order to achieve a European area of justice".
The Swedish prosecution has requested Julian Assange’s extradition for the purpose of questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct. He is yet to be formally charged with an offense.
Since his arrest, Mr Assange has offered himself to be questioned under the MLA practices, by telephone, video conference, or in person. He continues to retain this offer, even during his current stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy as he awaits a decision on his application for asylum. The Ecuadorians have agreed to letting the Swedish prosecution come to the Embassy to question him.
WikiLeaks’ legal adviser Jennifer Robinson met with Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt on July 5 during Almedalen Week, a political conference in Gotland. She discussed with him the allegations against Julian Assange and why Sweden has refused to question him over the past 18 months. "He told me it’s not allowed. And when I pointed out that Sweden had only recently done just that in a murder investigation in Serbia, he had no reply."
Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny made similar statements in 2010, saying that Swedish Law prevents Mr Assange being interviewed by telephone or video link, and that both Swedish and British law prevent her from traveling to London to question Mr Assange. Many of the articles containing the latter statement were later removed.
Since Julian Assange has not been formally charged, he does not have the rights of a defendant, i.e. access to the full accusations against him or any of the evidence. Could the fact that he only faces allegations affect the use of MLA law?
The guidelines for getting Mutual Legal Assistance from the UK state the contrary.
In the section entitled "What must be included in a Letter of Request" it states: "A description of the offences charged or under investigation and sentence or penalty"
Furthermore, in an "Example Letter of Request" it states: "Supply information on the charge or proposed charge."
A full page of the document is also dedicated to the information needed to request a telephone or video conference call, which includes an address, a possible list of questions, and any formal notification of rights.
Neither Carl Bildt nor Marianne Ny would explain how or why it is illegal under Swedish law to question Mr Assange via telephone, video conference, or in person. With no explanation on their behalf, the EU promoting the use of Mutual Legal Assistance, and a document explaining how to achieve information this way, it opens the door for speculation as to why Sweden refuses to question Mr Assange.
3) Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War
Eduardo Porter, New York Times, July 3, 2012
When policy makers in Washington worry about Mexico these days, they think in terms of a handful of numbers: Mexico’s 19,500 hectares devoted to poppy cultivation for heroin; its 17,500 hectares growing cannabis; the 95 percent of American cocaine imports brought by Mexican cartels through Mexico and Central America.
They are thinking about the wrong numbers. If there is one number that embodies the seemingly intractable challenge imposed by the illegal drug trade on the relationship between the United States and Mexico, it is $177.26. That is the retail price, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, of one gram of pure cocaine from your typical local pusher. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago.
This number contains pretty much all you need to evaluate the Mexican and American governments’ "war" to eradicate illegal drugs from the streets of the United States. They would do well to heed its message. What it says is that the struggle on which they have spent billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of lives over the last four decades has failed.
[…] Most important, conceived to eradicate the illegal drug market, the war on drugs cannot be won. Once they understand this, the Mexican and American governments may consider refocusing their strategies to take aim at what really matters: the health and security of their citizens, communities and nations.
Prices match supply with demand. If the supply of an illicit drug were to fall, say because the Drug Enforcement Administration stopped it from reaching the nation’s shores, we should expect its price to go up.
That is not what happened with cocaine. Despite billions spent on measures from spraying coca fields high in the Andes to jailing local dealers in Miami or Washington, a gram of cocaine cost about 16 percent less last year than it did in 2001. The drop is similar for heroin and methamphetamine. The only drug that has not experienced a significant fall in price is marijuana.
And it’s not as if we’ve lost our taste for the stuff, either. About 40 percent of high school seniors admit to having taken some illegal drug in the last year – up from 30 percent two decades ago, according to the Monitoring the Future survey, financed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The use of hard drugs, meanwhile, has remained roughly stable over the last two decades, rising by a few percentage points in the 1990s and declining by a few percentage points over the last decade, with consumption patterns moving from one drug to another according to fashion and ease of purchase.
For instance, 2.9 percent of high school seniors admit to having tried cocaine in the last year, just slightly less than in 1992. About 15 percent of seniors said they abused a prescription drug last year. Twenty years ago, prescription drug abuse was not even consistently measured.
The only dimension along which the war on drugs might be conceived as a success is political. If you ask Americans how concerned they are about drugs, they will give you roughly the same answer they have given for years: not so much.
In a Gallup poll, only 31 percent of Americans said they thought the government was making much progress dealing with illegal drugs, the lowest share since 1997. But fewer people say they worry about drug abuse than 10 years ago. Only 29 percent of Americans think it is an extremely or very serious problem where they live, the lowest share in the last decade.
But the government has spent $20 billion to $25 billion a year on counternarcotics efforts over the last decade. That is a pretty high price tag for political cover, to stop drugs from becoming a prominent issue on voters’ radar screen. It becomes unacceptably high if you add in the real costs of the drug wars. That includes more than 55,000 Mexicans and tens of thousands of Central Americans killed by drug-fueled violence since Mexico’s departing president, Felipe Calderón, declared war six years ago against the traffickers ferrying drugs across the border.
And the domestic costs are enormous, too. Almost one in five inmates in state prisons and half of those in federal prisons are serving time for drug offenses. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations. Four out of five arrests were for possession. Nearly half were for possession of often-tiny amounts of marijuana.
Harry Levine, a sociologist at Queens College of the City University of New York, told me that processing each of the roughly 85,000 arrests for drug misdemeanors in New York City last year cost the city $1,500 to $2,000. And that is just the cost to the budget. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, mostly black and poor, are unable to get a job, a credit card or even an apartment to rent because of the lasting stigma of a criminal record for carrying an ounce of marijuana.
Cracking down hard on drug users may sound great on the stump. But Americans who inject drugs are four times as likely to have H.I.V. as British addicts and seven times as likely as drug-injecting Swiss, mainly because the United States has been much slower in introducing needle exchanges and other measures to address the impact of drug abuse on public health.
The Obama administration acknowledges the limitations of the drug wars, and has shifted its priorities, focusing more on drug abuse prevention and treatment of addicts, and less on enforcement.
Still, many critics of the current policy believe the solution is to legalize – to bring illegal drugs out of the shadows where they are controlled by criminal gangs, into the light of the legal market where they can be regulated and taxed by the government.
Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard who studies drug policy closely, has suggested that legalizing all illicit drugs would produce net benefits to the United States of some $65 billion a year, mostly by cutting public spending on enforcement as well as through reduced crime and corruption.
A study by analysts at the RAND Corporation, a California research organization, suggested that if marijuana were legalized in California and the drug spilled from there to other states, Mexican drug cartels would lose about a fifth of their annual income of some $6.5 billion from illegal exports to the United States.
A growing array of Latin American presidents have asked for the United States to consider legalizing some drugs, like marijuana. Even Mr. Calderón is realizing the futility of the war against the narco-syndicates. He asked President Obama and the United States Congress last month to consider "market solutions" to reduce the cash flow to criminal groups.
[…] There are other options. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose membershipincludes former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Poland, has called on national governments to "depenalize" if not necessarily legalize drug possession and sales.
This means stopping the arrest and imprisonment of people who use drugs but cause no harm to others, and going easy on small-scale dealers, whose arrest does nothing to dent the flow of illegal drugs. It means focusing enforcement efforts on reducing the violence of the drug trade, rather than eliminating the drug market itself. It may also entail giving drugs to the most addicted users, to get them into clinics and off the streets.
Such policies require a drastic change of approach in Mexico and the United States. Their governments could start by acknowledging that drug dependence is a complex condition that is not solved through punishment, and that numbers of addicts or dealers arrested, or tons of drugs seized, are hardly measures of success.
A war on drugs whose objective is to eradicate the drug market – to stop drugs from arriving in the United States and stop Americans from swallowing, smoking, inhaling or injecting them – is a war that cannot be won. What we care about is the harm that drugs, drug trafficking and drug policy do to individuals, society and even national security. Reducing this harm is a goal worth fighting for.
4) UN expert labels CIA tactic exposed by Bureau ‘a war crime’
Jack Serle, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, June 21st, 2012
The UN’s expert on extrajudicial killings has described a tactic used by the CIA and first exposed by a Bureau investigation as ‘a war crime’.
Earlier this year the Bureau and the Sunday Times revealed the CIA was deliberately targeting rescuers and funeral-goers in its Pakistan drone strikes. Those controversial tactics have reportedly been revived.
Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur, told a meeting in Geneva on June 21: ‘Reference should be made to a study earlier this year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism… If civilian ‘rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.’
[…] In a separate presentation to the Council, Heyns, said that he was hopeful that the US would reveal the procedures, rules and legal opinions underlying its controversial use of drones. He also noted that the US government did not give his predecessor a satisfactory response when asked to clarify which aspects of international law it believes covers targeted killings.
But after a two-day Council debate, Heyns said the US had not been forthcoming: ‘I don’t think we have the full answer to the legal framework,’ he said. ‘We certainly don’t have the answer to the accountability issues.’
A number of other Geneva delegates also expressed concern about targeted killings. Swiss UNHRC representative Dante Martinelli addressed the Council and called for transparent reporting of casualties from targeted killing operations which ’cause many victims among the civilian population.’ Because of the cost to civilians, Switzerland called for ‘respect for the rules of international law.’
5) NAFTA on Steroids
Lori Wallach, The Nation, June 27, 2012
While the Occupy movement has forced a public discussion of extreme corporate influence on every aspect of our lives, behind closed doors corporate America is implementing a stealth strategy to formalize its rule in a truly horrifying manner. The mechanism is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Negotiations have been conducted in extreme secrecy, so you are in good company if you have never heard of it. But the thirteenth round of negotiations between the United States and eight Pacific Rim nations will be held in San Diego in early July.
The TPP has been cleverly misbranded as a trade agreement (yawn) by its corporate boosters. As a result, since George W. Bush initiated negotiations in 2008, it has cruised along under the radar. The Obama administration initially paused the talks, ostensibly to develop a new approach compatible with candidate Obama’s pledges to replace the old NAFTA-based trade model. But by late 2009, talks restarted just where Bush had left off.
Since then, US negotiators have proposed new rights for Big Pharma and pushed into the text aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would limit Internet freedom, despite the derailing of SOPA in Congress earlier this year thanks to public activism. In June a text of the TPP investment chapter was leaked, revealing that US negotiators are even pushing to expand NAFTA’s notorious corporate tribunals, which have been used to attack domestic public interest laws.
Think of the TPP as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny. Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters. The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent-grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation. They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more.
[…] Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules-in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and "sweat-free," human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged. If the TPP comes to fruition, its retrograde rules could be altered only if all countries agreed, regardless of domestic election outcomes or changes in public opinion. And unlike much domestic legislation, the TPP would have no expiration date.
Failure to conform domestic laws to the rules would subject countries to lawsuits before TPP tribunals empowered to authorize trade sanctions against member countries. The leaked investment chapter also shows that the TPP would expand the parallel legal system included in NAFTA. Called Investor-State Dispute Resolution, it empowers corporations to sue governments-outside their domestic court systems-over any action the corporations believe undermines their expected future profits or rights under the pact. Three-person international tribunals of attorneys from the private sector would hear these cases. The lawyers rotate between serving as "judges"-empowered to order governments to pay corporations unlimited amounts in fines-and representing the corporations that use this system to raid government treasuries. The NAFTA version of this scheme has forced governments to pay more than $350 million to corporations after suits against toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more.
The slight mainstream media coverage the TPP has received repeats the usual mantra: it’s a free-trade pact that will expand US exports. But trade is the least of it. The United States already has free-trade agreements that eliminated tariffs with most TPP countries, which highlights the fact that the TPP is mainly about new corporate rights, not trade.
[…] How could something this extreme have gotten so far? The process has been shockingly secretive. In 2010 TPP countries agreed not to release negotiating texts until four years after a deal was done or abandoned. Even the World Trade Organization, hardly a paragon of transparency, releases draft negotiating texts. This means that although the TPP could rewrite vast swaths of domestic policy affecting every aspect of our lives, the public, press and Congress are locked out. Astoundingly, Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate committee with official jurisdiction over TPP, has been denied access even to US proposals to the negotiations. But 600 corporate representatives serving as official US trade advisers have full access to TPP texts and a special role in negotiations. When challenged about the conflict with the Obama administration’s touted commitment to transparency, Trade Representative Kirk noted that after the release of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) text in 2001, that deal could not be completed. In other words, the official in charge of the TPP says the only way to complete the deal is to keep it secret from the people who would have to live with the results.
6) High-priced advocacy raises questions for supporters of Iranian exile group
Joby Warrick and Julie Tate, Washington Post, July 5
A well-financed lobbying campaign by prominent U.S. politicians and former officials on behalf of a designated terrorist organization is focusing new attention on the group and its influential advocates.
Supporters of the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, have met with senior Obama administration officials to push for the organization’s removal from the State Department’s terrorist list and better treatment of its members at a camp in Iraq.
Public appearances on behalf of the MEK by such people as former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell and former Obama national security adviser James L. Jones had already sparked an investigation by the Treasury Department into whether payments of tens of thousands of dollars to some of them violated anti-terrorism laws.
In recent weeks, new questions have been raised about whether private meetings, conference calls and other contact with officials at the State Department and elsewhere in the administration over the past year require the advocates’ registration as lobbyists or agents of a foreign entity.
Under federal law, advocates for foreign organizations are required to register as lobbyists and provide details about their clients and income. But the MEK supporters have not registered, which would require disclosing the amounts they are paid and the identities of officials with whom they meet.
The supporters argue that they are acting legitimately to facilitate U.S. policy decisions, which could make them exempt from registration requirements.
But scholars of lobbying regulations say the contacts with administration officials easily meet the definition of lobbying under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a law that has sometimes led to criminal charges.
"The law applies to anyone engaged in political or lobbying activity – or even propaganda – on behalf of a foreign ‘principal,’ a term that is defined broadly," said David Cole, a professor and expert on criminal and constitutional law at Georgetown University Law School. "It’s a very low bar."
7) ‘Bye-bye, Miss American Pie’ – then US helicopter appears to fire on Afghans
Video released on internet appears to show US helicopter crew singing before blasting Afghans with a missile
Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian, Friday 6 July 2012 11.22 EDT
Kabul – A video has surfaced online that appears to show a US helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile.
The footage comes in the wake of a string of damaging videos and pictures showing US forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents, and posing with the remains of suicide bombers and civilians killed for sport by a group of rogue soldiers.
If it is proved to be authentic, it could further undermine the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and a perception among many Afghans that US troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people.
The posting says the video was recorded in Wardak province, which lies south-west of the capital, Kabul, in September 2009. The caption refers sarcastically to a group of "innocent farmers planting poppy seeds in the middle of the road".
Men spotted digging in Afghan roads by the US or other foreign forces are likely to fall under suspicion that they are insurgents burying home-made bombs, one of the Taliban’s main weapons.
If the US military is confident it has identified them as insurgents, bombs are sometimes used to kill them, although Afghan officials have accused troops in the past of killing farmers and people working on irrigation ditches when they thought they were targeting people laying bombs.
8) Book: Spy agency sent Israelis into Iran to kill nuclear scientists, targeted from motorcycles
Associated Press, July 8
Washington – A new book claims Israel’s spy agency dispatched assassins into Iran, as part of a campaign to sabotage the country’s disputed nuclear program.
Israeli operatives have killed at least four Iranian nuclear scientists, including targeting them with operatives on motorcycles, an assassination technique used by the Israeli spy service, the Mossad, according to authors Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in their book to be published July 9, "Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars".
The Mossad agents "excel at accurate shooting at any speed and staying steady to shoot and to place exquisitely shaped sticky bombs" and consider it their hallmark, Raviv said Friday during an interview with both authors.
The hits are part of a series of regular missions deep inside Iran, intended to keep Tehran from developing weapons and following through with threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map. U.S. officials have said in the past that they were not involved, and they don’t know who did it.
[…] Iran has long blamed the scientists’ killings on Israel, which has remained silent on the matter, but media reports speculated Israel had contracted killers to do the job.
"They don’t farm out a mission that is that sensitive," so sensitive that Israel’s prime minister has to sign off on it personally, Raviv said. "They might use dissidents for assistance or logistics but not the hit itself. The methodology and training and use of motorcycles is all out of the Mossad playbook. They wouldn’t trust anybody else to do it."
The Mossad operatives enter and exit Iran through a "multitude" of routes, using a series of safe houses once inside the country that predate the 1979 revolution, the authors said.
[…] Raviv is a CBS News correspondent, and Melman is a well-known Israeli reporter and commentator.
9) Validate Settlements, Israeli Panel Suggests
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, July 9, 2012
Jerusalem – Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
"The report relates to the question of legality and legitimacy of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. He added that the report’s conclusions would be submitted to a ministerial committee on settlement affairs for discussion and that "the facts and claims" presented in the report "merit serious examination."
Most of the world views the areas that Israel conquered from Jordan in the 1967 war, and where the Palestinians want to establish a future state, as occupied territory, and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. Israel distinguishes between its 120 or so established settlements in the West Bank and those that went up since the 1990s with some government support, but without formal government authorization.
[…] Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian national movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement saying that the Levy committee’s conclusions were a "farce" that "mocked and defied the international community."
Palestinian officials noted that the report was published on the anniversary of the July 9, 2004, advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which determined that Israel’s construction of its barrier across the 1967 boundary, in West Bank territory, violated international law.
The Levy report said the outposts now deemed unauthorized were established with the knowledge and encouragement of Israel’s most senior government echelons, concluding that this amounted to "implied agreement."
[…] Mr. Netanyahu formed the Levy committee in January, under pressure from settler leaders who wanted a counter to a highly critical 2005 report on the outposts commissioned by the government of Ariel Sharon and written by Talia Sasson, a former state prosecutor. That report described widespread state complicity in the construction of more than 100 illegal outposts, as well as fraud and the illegal diversion of government funds.
Mr. Sharon encouraged the outpost boom, calling on settlers in 1998 to grab as many hilltops as they could. Under American pressure, he later pledged to remove some two dozen outposts, a promise that has remained unfulfilled.
[…] Israeli human rights organizations opposed to settlement slammed the report. "The Levy Committee’s suggestion to view illegal statements or actions by various ministers as government consent undermines the principles of the rule of law and good governance," Michael Sfard, the legal adviser of Yesh Din, said in a statement.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the report’s conclusions were "legally unfounded and their purpose is to authorize and deepen the injustice that Israeli governments are performing in the Occupied Territories in the past 45 years."
10) Uruguay president: Only pot will be legal
Associated Press, July 5
Bogota, Colombia — Uruguay’s president has made it clear that his plan for legalizing marijuana in the South American nation does not mean he favors legalizing any other illicit drugs.
President Jose Mujica said in an interview Thursday with Colombia’s RCN radio network that he does not yet know when his government will present Uruguay’s Congress with the legislative proposal. Mujica’s party dominates Congress.
He says the plan is for the government to sell marijuana at a cheap and reasonable price then monitor what each consumer uses. The idea is to take drug profits out of the hands of criminals.
Mujica says that while drug addiction is a medical problem, drug trafficking is an unwinnable police problem.
Uruguay would be the world’s first nation to sell marijuana directly.
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