Abe’s Proxy Army – on Facebook

proxyWe just love our proxy army, navy and air force.

This is from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Facebook page. Guess they think they need a lot of propaganda to overcome the deep aversion to the security bills that Abe – to the delight of the Pentagon – rammed through the Diet. But it ain’t over: demonstrations will continue and a legal challenge to the constitutional change is underway.

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New documents out on Stellarwind

Former NSA Director Michael J. Hayden: Whenever he speaks, keep this image in mind.

Former NSA Director Michael J. Hayden: Whenever he speaks, keep this image in mind.

The New York Times just posted a story shedding new light on that big fight in 2004 between the George W. Bush White House and the Justice Department over the post-9/11 mass collection of domestic calling data by the NSA. 

Mr. Bush’s secret directives to the agency, starting in October 2001, said the N.S.A. could “acquire” phone and email metadata — logs showing who contacted whom, but not what they said — if at least one end was foreign or if a specific message were linked to terrorism. But the agency was apparently gathering purely domestic metadata in bulk, too, the Justice Department found.

Mr. Bush, in response to the discrepancy identified by the Justice Department, declared that the N.S.A. was authorized to systematically collect the metadata of purely domestic communications, too, so long as analysts only looked at records linked to terrorism. He also declared that the agency had been authorized to do that all along.

The authorization “gap” was among the disclosures in newly declassified passages of a 746-page report by six agencies’ inspectors general about the N.S.A. program, code-named Stellarwind. The report also shows that after March 2004, the Justice Department persuaded the White House to limit the program to investigations of Al Qaeda, rather than allowing it to be used for other types of international counterterrorism investigations, to make the argument that the program was legally justified as a wartime measure.

The government provided the information to The New York Times late Friday night as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the public disclosure of the report.

Most of this we already knew, of course. And whether there was an internal administration fight or not, the contractors – er, “intelligence professionals” – working on these systems still made out like bandits. After all, they’re the ruling class of U.S. intelligence — read How Private Contractors Have Created a Shadow NSA,” my piece on this class in The Nation last June.

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Masters of War – Japanese Version

It’s a black day in Japan.

After years of relentless pressure from the CIA, the Pentagon, Washington’s think tanks, and the Obama administration and every one that went before, the fascist prime minister Abe has finally turned Japan into America’s proxy Army.

The fight will continue – but meanwhile, listen to this chilling version of MASTERS OF WAR, sung by Pete Seeger and translated simultaneously into Japanese. It will make your hair stand up on end.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 18.32.23


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PSYCHO-CAPITALISM: A $180 million torture-for-profit industry

The Senate Committee’s Report on the C.I.A.’s Use of Torture concludes that torture programs were “overwhelmingly outsourced operations.” Here’s the section on these Psycho-Contractors, as summarized by the Washington Post:

The CIA contracted with two psychologists to develop, operate, and assess its interrogation operations. The psychologists’ prior experience was at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school. Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.

On the CIA’s behalf, the contract psychologists developed theories of interrogation based on “learned helplessness,” and developed the list of enhanced interrogation techniques that was approved for use against Abu Zubaydah and subsequent CIA detainees. The psychologists personally conducted interrogations of some of the CIA’s most significant detainees using these techniques. They also evaluated whether detainees’ psychological state allowed for the continued use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, including some detainees whom they were themselves interrogating or had interrogated. The psychologists carried out inherently governmental functions, such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees in held in foreign government custody.

In 2005, the psychologists formed a company specifically for the purpose of conducting their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program.

In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.

In 2008, the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Group, the lead unit for detention and interrogation operations at the CIA, had a total of- positions, which were filled with CIA staff officers and contractors, meaning that contractors made up 85% of the workforce for detention and interrogation operations.

Only in America!

<Link to this section of the Senate torture report.>

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Blackwater: The problem is the outsourcing of war

My latest, just posted in The New York Times.

The Blackwater convictions this week brought me back to a fierce debate I witnessed in January 2005 between a Marine colonel and one of Blackwater’s top executives.

The colonel, who had been training Iraqi forces, warned that Blackwater gunmen guarding U.S. officials in Baghdad were “making enemies everywhere” with their Wild West tactics. His prescient fears were later realized in the shootout at Nassour Square that killed 17 Iraqis. Seven years later, what have we learned?

The extensive use of contractors, particularly in intelligence and surveillance, makes it possible to carelessly pursue wars on the sly.

Blackwater, now renamed Academi, is just one cog in an industry that encompasses hundreds of private military companies.

The duties of these companies extend far beyond security. DynCorp, for example, was hired to train the new national army of Liberia, where a massive U.S. military force is deployed to combat Ebola.

These companies are deeply engaged in countries dependent on mining and extractive industries. And they are often hired as subcontractors to larger defense firms on overseas counterterrorism operations, “so they may do the intelligence work and not the actual security work,” an executive with Triple Canopy told me last year. And as a simple Google search will show, many of them have beentouched by scandal.

Their deployment, coupled with extensive use of intelligence and surveillance contractors, makes it possible for the United States to pursue wars on the sly. Who besides their families keeps track of contractor deaths – estimated at over 6,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan – on the battlefield?

To be sure, the Pentagon and Congress have taken some steps to establish greater accountability and rules of engagement for these companies. The United States also signed onto a voluntary set of international guidelines that commit governments to enforce humanitarian and human rights standards when they deploy contractors.

But these rules don’t go far enough. For starters, industry insiders have told me, Congress exempted companies that provide intelligence services from its guidelines. There are no laws to make companies, and not just their personnel, subject to prosecution. Moreover, few countries outside of Europe have endorsed the international principles: only three African states, among the heaviest users of private military contractors, have signed on.

But a mercenary future is not inevitable. We need to reconsider the whole notion of private armies and bring these functions – if needed – back into government. Marines are supposed to guard U.S. embassies, for example; let’s keep them there. If we need to protect U.S. personnel in warzones, let’s commit the resources to do it with our own forces.

Insourcing national security functions has wide political support, and would go a long way toward restoring public trust in the military. And it might keep us from engaging in foolish wars that only create more enemies and make us less safe.

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