Evening Blues Preview 5-13-15
This evening's music features blues guitarist Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell.
Here are some stories from tonight's post:
The debate over the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records has reached a critical point after a federal appeals court last week ruled the practice illegal, dramatically raising the stakes for pending Congressional legislation that would fully or partially reinstate the program. An army of pundits promptly took to television screens, with many of them brushing off concerns about the surveillance. ...
But it’s often unclear just how financially cozy these pundits are with the surveillance state they defend, since they’re typically identified with titles that give no clues about their conflicts of interest. ... As one example of the opaque link between NSA money and punditry, take the words of Stewart Baker, who was general counsel to the NSA from 1992 through 1994. During a Senate committee hearing last summer on one of the reform bills now before Congress, the USA FREEDOM Act, which would partially limit mass surveillance of telephone metadata, Baker essentially said the bill would aid terrorists. ...
Baker has identified himself at various points as a former government official with the NSA and Department of Homeland Security and as a Washington, D.C. attorney. But the law firm at which Baker is a partner, Steptoe & Johnson, maintains a distinct role in the world of NSA contracting. At the time of his pro-NSA advocacy in 2013 and 2014, the company was registered to lobby on behalf of companies which have served as major NSA contractors, including Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Leidos and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). ...
Fox News Military Analyst Jack Keane appears regularly on the network to opine on national security issues. ... Since 2004, Keane has served as board member to General Dynamics, a firm that contracts with the NSA — as occasionally disclosed publicly, as in October 2014, in 2010, and in 2009. For his service as a board member, Keane has earned about a quarter of a million dollars a year in cash and stock awards. ...
In June of 2013, following the first Snowden disclosures, retired General Wesley Clark and former Central Intelligence Agency Chief James Woolsey cast aspersions on the whistleblower who brought the NSA’s privacy violations to light. ... The men are, and were at the time, advisors to Paladin Capital Group, an investment advisor and private equity firm whose Homeland Security Fund was set up about three months after the September 11 attacks to focus on defense and intelligence-related startups.
[For further examples of undisclosed influence, click the link. - js]
The US government's prosecution of a South Korean businessman accused of illegally selling technology used in aircraft and missiles to Iran was dealt a devastating blow by a federal judge. The judge ruled Friday that the authorities illegally seized the businessman's computer at Los Angeles International Airport as he was to board a flight home.
The authorities who were investigating Jae Shik Kim exercised the border exception rule that allows the authorities to seize and search goods and people—without court warrants—along the border and at airport international terminals. US District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia noted that the Supreme Court has never directly addressed the issue of warrantless computer searches at an international border crossing, but she ruled (PDF) the government used Kim's flight home as an illegal pretext to seize his computer. Authorities then shipped it 150 miles south to San Diego where the hard drive was copied and examined for weeks, but the judge said the initial seizure "surely cannot be justified." ...
"The government points to its plenary authority to conduct warrantless searches at the border. It posits that a laptop computer is simply a 'container' that was examined pursuant to this authority, and it submits that the government’s unfettered right to search cargo at the border to protect the homeland is the beginning and end of the matter," the judge wrote. ...
Judge Berman Jackson questioned whether the border search exception should apply to laptops because they carry much more private information than, say, a briefcase. Judge Jackson cited last year's Supreme Court case, known as Riley, in which the justices ruled unanimously that the authorities generally may not search the mobile phones of those they arrest unless they have a court warrant.
The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly island chain, the official said.
Such a move would directly challenge Chinese efforts to expand its influence in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
"We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade," the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that any options would need White House approval.
Carter's request was first reported earlier on Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, which said one option was to fly Navy surveillance aircraft over the islands.
Iran says it will not submit to Saudi or US threats over a cargo ship it says is carrying humanitarian aid
As the first full day of a tenuous ceasefire takes hold in Yemen, a top Iranian general has warned both the United States and Saudi Arabia against interferring with a cargo vessel, said to be carrying humanitarian aid, as it continued toward the coast of the war-torn nation.
U.S. and Saudi officials have said Tehran's sending of the ship, which is travelling under what the Iranians have called the "safeguard" of a naval escort, is provocative amid ongoing hostilities in Yemen, but Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, responded on Iran's state-operated Al-Alam television late Tuesday by saying that Iran would not be intimidated.
"I bluntly declare that the self-restraint of Islamic Republic of Iran is not limitless," Gen. Jazayeri was quoted as saying. "Both Saudi Arabia and its novice rulers, as well as the Americans and others, should be mindful that if they cause trouble for the Islamic Republic with regard to sending humanitarian aid to regional countries, it will spark a fire, the putting out of which would definitely be out of their hands."
On Tuesday, a senior Iranian commander said that Iran’s navy will protect the cargo ship on route to Yemen.
A high-profile group of former European political leaders and diplomats has called for the urgent reassessment of EU policy on the question of a Palestinian state and has insisted Israel must be held to account for its actions in the occupied territories.
In a hard-hitting letter to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, the group – which includes former prime ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors also expresses serious doubts about the ability of the US to lead substantive negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
It charges that EU political and financial aid has achieved nothing but the “preservation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and imprisonment of Gaza”.
The group, known as the European Eminent Persons Group, argues that the re-election of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the head of a narrow rightwing coalition has made the issue even more pressing. ...
In a damning assessment of EU policy, which the authors say has “hidden” behind US leadership in an “unedifying” manner, the letter says: “Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation. It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights.”
On 13 May 1985, Philadelphia police moved in to arrest four members of a radical black liberation group called Move – but a bungled raid left 11 people dead. Alan Yuhas revisits the only aerial bombing carried out by police on US soil
Sodden from the spray of fire hoses, terrified by the thousands of bullets fired above and the teargas floating into the cellar below, 13-year-old Michael Ward was hiding under a blanket when a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the roof of his west Philadelphia home.
The raid killed six adults and five children, destroyed more than 60 homes and left more than 250 people homeless. It stands as the only aerial bombing carried out by police on US soil.
The 30-year anniversary of the bombing of Osage Avenue will be commemorated without Ward, who was one of only two survivors of the disastrous assault. Instead professor Cornell West, author Alice Walker and others will give speeches and protesters will march down the crumbling, mostly abandoned block where the bombing took place, drawing ties between police brutality and institutional racism then and now. ...
District attorney Ed Rendell authorized arrest warrants and mayor Wilson Goode sent in police.
“Were we wanted for rape, robbery, murder? No, nothing,” Ramona Africa, the only living Move survivor of that day, told the Guardian. Africa linked the bombing to the recent police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray: “These people that take an oath that swear to protect, save lives – the cops don’t defend poor people, poor white, black, Latino people. They don’t defend us, they kill us. ...
The commission’s final report denounced the city from top to bottom. Police tactics were “grossly negligent” at best, the report found, and outrageous at worst: “Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable.” Police would not have done so, the commission noted with only one dissenter, “had the Move house and its occupants been situated in a comparable white neighborhood.”
A new offshore drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico has gotten federal approval and is set to begin near the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil pouring into the Atlantic Ocean in 2010.
According to Harper's Magazine, which first reported the news late Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement approved a drilling permit on April 13 for the Louisiana-based LLOG Exploration Offshore LLC, which will drill for oil and gas in the deep-water Macondo reservoir, the site of the 2010 explosion. The agency previously approved the company's exploration plans in October after the Bureau of Ocean Management conducted an environmental review of the project.
LLOG will be the first company to attempt tapping those same reserves since BP's catastrophic effort.
Also of interest: