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Bradley Manning has been found not guilty of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge leveled against him and the one that could have carried a life sentence. But the WikiLeaker isn’t exactly off the hook; he was convicted on 17 other counts, including at least five counts of violating the Espionage Act, and on amended versions of four others, the Guardian reports. (The BBC puts the tally at 20 convictions.) Manning was also acquitted of one espionage count stemming from the leak of a video of a US military strike in Afghanistan, which Manning had argued he was not the original source of, though he did later release a version.

The aiding the enemy acquittal probably won’t have any practical effect; the other charges he was convicted of carry a maximum of 130 years in prison, and according to Reuters, government prosecutors are seeking the harshest sentence possible. (Manning also had already pleaded guilty to some lesser charges.) But the Washington Post calls it a “striking rebuke” to military prosecutors. News organizations had feared that a guilty verdict on that charge would have had dire implications for investigative journalism. The courtroom saga is unlikely to end here, because any soldier sentenced to more than six months in custody is automatically entitled to an appeal.


In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.”

So who exactly are those associated forces? It’s a secret.

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”

“Because elements that might be considered ‘associated forces’ can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. “We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks.”

It’s not an abstract question: U.S. drone strikes and other actions frequently target “associated forces,” as has been the case with dozens of strikes against an Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.

During the May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said he was “not sure there is a list per se.” Describing terrorist groups as “murky” and “shifting,” he said, “it would be difficult for the Congress to get involved in trying to track the designation of which are the affiliate forces” of Al Qaeda.

Sheehan said that by the Pentagon’s standard, “sympathy is not enough…. it has to be an organized group and that group has to be in co-belligerent status with Al Qaeda operating against the United States.”

The White House tied Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and “elements” of Al Shabaab in Somalia to Al Qaeda in a recent report to Congress on military actions. But the report also included a classified annex.

Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written on this question at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon’s reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak. “If the organizations are ‘inflated’ enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?” Goldsmith said. He added that there is “a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name.”

The law underpinning the U.S. war against Al Qaeda is known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and it was passed one week after the 9/11 attacks. It doesn’t actually include the words “associated forces,” though courts and Congress have endorsed the phrase.

As we explained earlier this year, the emergence of new or more loosely-aligned terrorist groups has legal scholars wondering how effectively the U.S. will be able to “shoehorn” them into the AUMF. During the May hearing, many lawmakers expressed concern about the Pentagon’s capacious reading of the law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described it as a “carte blanche.”

Obama, in his May speech, said he looked forward “to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But he didn’t give a timeframe. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced an amendment that would sunset the law at the end of 2014, to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was voted down the same day, 185 to 236.

The AUMF isn’t the only thing the government relies on to take military action. In speeches and interviews Obama administration officials also bring up the president’s constitutional power to defend the country, even without congressional authorization.


After the initial surge of web traffic to alternative news websites following The Guardian breaking the NSA spying story, traffic has slowed considerably despite the continued interest in the NSA story as well as other alternative headlines.

This dramatic drop in traffic may be due to broad censorship by the Department of Defense on “millions of computers”. What began as a rumor that the military brass was ordering soldiers not to view news about the whistleblower revelations that the NSA is spying on all Americans has swelled into a confirmed military-wide censorship campaign using a high-tech computer filtering system.

military blackout
The US News and World Report is reporting that the DoD is blocking access to all articles related to the NSA scandal from all DoD computers. The filter reportedly effects millions of computers and potentially thousands of alternative news websites.

According to U.S. News: “The Department of Defense is blocking online access to news reports about classified National Security Agency documents made public by Edward Snowden. The blackout affects all of the department’s computers and is part of a department-wide directive.”

“Any website that runs information that the Department of Defense still considers classified” is affected, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told U.S. News in a phone interview.

According to Pickart, news websites that re-report information first published by The Guardian or other primary sources are also affected. ”If that particular website runs an article that our filters determine has classified information… the particular content on that website will remain inaccessible,” he said. Pickart said the blackout affects “millions” of computers on “all Department of Defense networks and systems.”

This is perhaps one of the most shocking displays of blatant censorship in the history of the United States. The idea that classified information should still be treated as “off limits” to regular military personnel after its broad release to the public makes no sense.

Unless, of course, they don’t want soldiers learning the truth about what their government is doing for fear that they may recognize who the true enemies of the Constitution are.

Or this may simply be a beta test of the government’s technical capability to filter Internet traffic away from certain news stories and the websites that carry them.

In either case, this should be a huge story in itself.  Draconian Internet censorship has finally arrived in a big way.

via Activitst Post


It’s the ultimate machine of what’s become our Paranoid State. Clive Irving on the Orwellian mass-surveillance data center rising in the Utah desert.

Remember the Stasi, the secret police who operated in East Germany when it was a communist state? When the Berlin Wall came down, East Germans discovered they had been living in a society so rotted by paranoia that at least one in three of its adult citizens were spying on the other two.

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In the case of East Germany, this ended up producing warehouses stuffed with bulging files containing the minutely observed details of the everyday, humdrum lives of millions. The product was both banal and, in its range and results, terrifying (a world caught beautifully in the film The Lives of Others).

In the case of the U.S., the apotheosis of the same mind-set lies in a sprawling complex at Camp Williams, Utah, due to start operating this fall. Billions of dollars have gone into creating this cyberintelligence facility for the National Security Agency.

There’s no official explanation of the Utah Data Center’s real mission, except that it’s the largest of a network of data farms including sites in Colorado, Georgia, and Maryland. But it’s obviously been built to vastly increase the agency’s capacity to suck in, digest, analyze, and store whatever the intelligence community decides to collect. As of this week, we know a lot more about the kind of data that includes.

Of course, the U.S. is still far from being the police state that East Germany was. But I do think we need to better understand how this technological juggernaut works, what its scope really is—and particularly we need to appreciate how our political acceptance of this scale of surveillance is shaping the kind of society we are.

The national-security industrial complex is now of the size, power, and influence of the military-industrial complex of the Cold War, which President Eisenhower first defined and warned of. As then, this complex uses the national interest as a reason for having to operate in secrecy, and invokes patriotism—literally in the PATRIOT Act—to create a political consensus.

Nineteen terrorists with minimal technology—box cutters—have enabled the counterterrorism industry to enjoy unbounded reach. White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest used the familiar argument to defend the newly disclosed surveillance: it was, he said, “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terror activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”

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Where is it absolutely essential to violate privacy and where not?

That’s actually a simplification. Surveillance has two fundamental purposes: to track the known and discover the unknown. It’s hard to comprehend the science involved. How, for example, do you cull billions of bytes of data a second in a way that discriminates between the useless and the essential? Only one thing is for sure, and that is that the policy driving the velocity of the NSA’s ever-expanding sweeps is first to make those sweeps as global and indiscriminate as possible and then to apply algorithms able to instantly see the significant from the insignificant. If only it were that simple.

It is patently easy to defend the resources devoted to intelligence gathering by saying that many attacks have been thwarted, without saying what and where they were. Neither the Boston Marathon atrocity nor the London assassination of a British soldier were detected in advance, even though intelligence services in both countries had the perpetrators on their radar.

There is a certain kind of intellectual depravity in trying to have us accept that all surveillance is good for us. Politicians of both parties who now say there is nothing new in what has been revealed, that this was all authorized and kosher, are captives of this depravity, because they don’t really know any more than we do where to draw the line. Where is it absolutely essential to violate privacy and where not?

This is made even worse by the cover of enormous technical complexity. At least the Stasi’s low-tech methods could be seen for what they were, part of a cumbersome and gross bureaucratic machine, essentially human in its systems, allowing culpability to be clearly assigned.

In our case there is the Dark Star factor, like the Utah operation, working on robotic principles, not dependent on putting bugs in chandeliers, leaving no fingerprints, and capable of awesome penetration. We have the ultimate machine of the Paranoid State, an Orwellian apparatus that intoxicates its operators with its efficiency, enthrals its masters with its omniscience, and emasculates its political overseers with its promise of efficacy.

By Clive Irving