CIA planned rendition of Edward Snowden

Robert Stevens

According to an article published by the The Register, an aircraft belonging to the United States Central Intelligence Agency was sent to Europe last June as the US government was preparing to seize whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

On June 23, 2013, Snowden arrived in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong. From there, he had planned to fly on to Cuba and then to Latin America. He was unable to do so, as the Obama administration cancelled his passport. Earlier that month, Snowden had made public, via the Guardian and other newspapers , revelations that the US, British and other governments were carrying out programmes of mass surveillance of the world’s population.

The Register article, “CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to snatch Snowden,” states that on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden arrived in Moscow, “an unmarked Gulfstream V business jet—tail number N977GA—took off from a quiet commercial airport 30 miles from Washington DC.”

The article notes that N977GA flew from the small Manassas Regional Airport. It continues, “Early next morning, N977GA was detected heading east over Scotland at the unusually high altitude of 45,000 feet. It had not filed a flight plan, and was flying above the level at which air traffic control reporting is mandatory.”

Snowden reveals massive National Security Agency hacking unit

Robert Stevens

Note the altered logo of Intel’s “Intel Inside” campaign (from
the 90s) in the bottom left corner: “TAO Inside”

The US National Security Agency (NSA) runs an Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), described by Germany’s Der Spiegel as the “NSA’s top operative unit—something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.”

A report published Sunday based on documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden states that the TAO operates as a vast hacking unit on behalf of the US government.

Based in San Antonio, Texas and formed in 1997, the TAO, “are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO’s area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage. The documents reveal just how diversified the tools at TAO’s disposal have become—and also how it exploits the technical weaknesses of the IT industry, from Microsoft to Cisco and Huawei, to carry out its discreet and efficient attacks.”

In 2008, the TAO unit had 60 specialists the magazine said—a number set to escalate to 270 by 2015. The TAO’s duties according to the NSA are based on “Getting the ungettable.”

Further US demands for espionage charges against Assange

Richard Phillips

While Obama administration spokesmen and the Australian government continue to insist that Washington is “not interested” in prosecuting WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence head, Dianne Feinstein, has issued another call for the Australian citizen to be put on trial.

“Mr Assange should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act [of 1917],” Feinstein told the Melbourne-based Age last week. “I believe Mr Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States. He has caused serious harm to US national security, and he should be prosecuted accordingly.”

US Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told the newspaper that “there continues to be an investigation into the WikiLeaks matter.”

Assange is currently inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, pending a response to his June 19 application for political asylum in that country. Ecuadorian embassies in the US and Britain reported last week that they had received over 10,000 email messages in support of his application.

Assange’s decision to seek asylum followed the recent UK Supreme Court rejection of his legal appeals against extradition to Sweden. The WikiLeaks editor fears that if removed to Sweden, Washington will intervene and extradite him to the US. There he would face trial, on trumped-up charges, for the “crime” of publishing hundreds of thousands documents exposing war crimes by Washington, and the intrigues of the major powers.

Troika arrives in Athens to organise looting of Greece

Robert Stevens

The New Democracy-led Greek coalition government is meeting officials from the troika—the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—today.

Christine Lagarde, IMF’s managing director, marked the occasion with a stern warning to Athens that the austerity programme must continue. In an interview with CNBC Tuesday, Lagarde said, “I am not in a negotiation or renegotiation mood at all.”

Referring to reports that the Greek government is to present figures recording the social misery caused by years of austerity to press the case for a renegotiation of the country’s debt, she added, “I’m very interested in seeing what has been done in the last few months in terms of complying with the programme.”

Despite the majority voting in the June 17 general election against parties supporting the Memorandum with the troika on harsh debt repayment terms, the coalition of ND, the social democratic PASOK and the Democratic Left is intent on meeting the demands for further savage cuts. Its talk of renegotiating a two-year extension for paying back Greece’s 350 billion euro debt is hot air. No such compromise is on offer, as Lagarde makes clear.

A popular repudiation of the austerity agenda of ND and a collapse in the vote for PASOK, with SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) finishing second by campaigning on an anti-cuts ticket, forced the coalition to pledge not to impose certain planned cuts, such as a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage.

Within days they were forced to retract such promises due to the hostile response of the troika. Prime Minister and ND leader Antonis Samaras responded with a letter to EU leaders affirming that government accepted “ownership of the adjustment programme and is fully committed to its targets, its objectives and all its key policies.”

Lagarde’s remarks neatly bookend comments she made just weeks prior to the election, in which she insisted that there was no alternative to the mass social immiseration being imposed in Greece. Asked by the Guardian if she was “essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you’ve had a nice time and now it’s payback time,” she responded, “That’s right.”

The Diamond Jubilee: A glorification of wealth and privilege

Robert Stevens

Looking a wee bit lost in all the fuss & commotion: That tiny wo-
man in the middle is Her Majesty The Queen...More photos here.

For days, the British public has been subjected to saturation coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

This diet of carefully choreographed royal propaganda, which included minute-by-minute coverage of Sunday’s 1,000-boat pageant on London’s river Thames and an official pop concert at Buckingham Palace, ensured that any serious news was all but excised.

The mounting economic crisis in Europe, the death of another British soldier in Afghanistan (the 417th to have died since the 2001 invasion), were reduced to footnotes.

The tens of millions of pounds spent on the Royal Jubilee is in stark contrast to the demands of the ruling elite that working people—the target of the most severe austerity measures since the 1930s—must make “sacrifices” for the good of the nation. It is estimated that the cost of the celebrations, including the extra public Bank Holiday, will be around £1.2 billion.

Much of the expense has been on ensuring a security lockdown of the capital. For the Thames Pageant event alone, 13,000 security forces were mobilised, including members of the Royal Navy and Marines, as well as police officers.

Over the past month, London’s 40 square miles have been systematically swept by security forces, including police frogmen carrying out an underwater search of the Thames, to counter the so-called “terrorist threat”.

British Supreme Court endorses extradition of Julian Assange

Robert Stevens

In effect, the four-page WikiLeaks statement depicted the decision in London as a prelude to a much grimmer challenge awaiting Mr. Assange than the sex abuse charges.” - The New York Times

At the UK Supreme Court in London, Wednesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden. The judges ruled by a majority of five to two that the extradition request had been “lawfully made”.

Assange is challenging the extradition, which is based on contested allegations of sexual assault made by two women in August 2010.

Though the ruling allowed for Assange’s extradition as soon as possible, his lawyer Dinah Rose requested a 14-day stay be granted in which to consider an application to re-open the court’s ruling. She said that, from an initial reading, the decision could have been made on the basis of legal points never argued by either side during the initial Supreme Court hearing in February.

If Assange decides to appeal on these grounds, a court statement said, “the Justices will then decide whether to re-open the appeal and accept further submissions (either verbally through a further hearing, or on paper) on the matter.”

Despite the fact that he has never been charged with any crime in Sweden or any other country, Assange was arrested in London in December 2010 under the anti-democratic European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system. Even on the arrest warrant, issued by Swedish public prosecutor Marianne Ny, he is not designated as an “accused” person.

Assange has since spent 540 days under house arrest in Norfolk under restrictive bail conditions. He is forced to wear an electronic ankle tag at all times and has to report to a local police station daily.

Double suicide underscores Greece’s deepening health crisis

Robert Stevens

Family tragedy in Bathis Square: A 90-year old woman and
her son (60), both from Syros, comitted suicide by jumping
from their 6th floor balcony.
(Photo/Caption: Άποψη)

The appalling suicide of a mother and son in Athens again underscores the social nightmare being visited on Greece by the troika—the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The tragedy occurred May 24. The mother, aged 90, and her son, aged 60, leapt hand in hand from the roof of their apartment building in the capital shortly after 8 a.m.

The son was identified as Antonis Perris, an unemployed musician. Since Antonis had been unable to find work, the pair had been forced to survive on the mother’s pension of just €340 (US$427) a month.

The joint suicide occurred only days before IMF head Christine Lagarde dismissed reports that people were dying in the country due to the savage austerity measures being imposed, callously claiming that it was “payback” time for Greek workers.

The night before their deaths, Perris described their deteriorating economic situation and suffering on a well-known blog site. He wrote,

I have been taking care of my 90-year-old mother for 20 years. In the last 3-4 years she has developed Alzheimer’s, recently she also has been having Schizophrenic fits amongst her other grave health problems, so nursing homes won’t accept her.

The problem is that I hadn’t foreseen the crisis so I don’t have enough cash in my account, although I have real estate assets I sell from time to time, I’m left without cash and we can no longer eat. I borrow money from my credit card with 22% interest even though the banks themselves borrow with 1%. I have other running costs.

Unfortunately, I have also developed serious health problems lately. I have no solution in front of me. I can no longer live this drama. There’s no solution. Does anyone have a solution?

British High Court dismisses appeal by WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange against extradition

Robert Stevens

Julian Assange speaking out-
side the High Court

On Wednesday, the High Court in London dismissed the appeal by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange against his extradition to Sweden on frame-up charges of rape and sexual assault.

The hearing took place nearly four months after the two presiding High Court judges, Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Ouseley, deferred Assange’s appeal against a February 24, 2011, ruling that he could be extradited.

At the February hearing, District Judge Howard Riddle at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court perversely ruled that extradition would not breech Assange’s human rights and that he would get a fair trial if he were ever charged in Sweden.

Assange’s lawyers have indicated they will appeal the latest decision to the Supreme Court. His legal team have only 14 days to do so and face huge obstacles. They must seek permission from the High Court by applying for a certificate of law of general public importance. Under UK law, Assange’s lawyers must justify their application by arguing that the case concerns a point of law of general importance to the public. Only if the High Court agrees with that can the Supreme Court hear an appeal.

Given that the same court has just rejected Assange’s appeal, permission is highly unlikely. This would mean Assange will be forcibly extradited to Sweden within 10 days of the hearing, even though he has not been charged with any offence.

The case against Assange is aimed at silencing WikiLeaks, which has made public thousands of secret US military documents exposing the criminal character of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. WikiLeaks has also published hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables documenting the conspiracies carried out against the global population by Washington and its allies.

Since Assange’s arrest, the British state has worked hand in glove with the Swedish authorities for his extradition.

UN issues apologia for Israeli massacre on Gaza aid ship

Robert Stevens

The United Nations report on the assault on the Mavi Marmara humanitarian ship is a whitewash of the May 2010 massacre by Israeli military forces, which provides a continued justification for the blockade of Gaza.

The vessel was part of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla and was in international waters when Israeli commandos raided it and brutally murdered eight defenceless Turkish citizens and a Turkish American. Many other civilians on board were seriously injured in the attack.

Turkey has responded to the publication of the UN report by expelling Israel’s ambassador from Ankara and severing military ties with Tel Aviv. Turkish officials have said they will resume full relations if Israel issues an apology for the killings.

The “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident” follows an inquiry headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a former New Zealand prime minister. Also on the panel were former Columbian president, Álvaro Uribe, Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar, a representative of Israel, and Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, a representative of Turkey.

The New York Times, a noted pro-Israeli publication, leaked the report just prior to its publication by the UN. As was expected, the 105-page UN report was a whitewash, which gives Israel a clean bill of health, with only the mealy-mouthed complaint that the Israel Defence Force used, “excessive force”.

Most importantly, the report not only endorses the rampage aboard the Mavi Marmara but also provides the UN’s imprimatur for any further actions by the Israeli state.

16,000 police deployed in London to put down youth revolt

Robert Stevens

Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the governmental emergency COBRA committee yesterday and called a special sitting in parliament for Thursday, in response to continuing rioting in London that has spread to other towns and cities in England.

Cameron was forced to cut short his holiday in Tuscany to oversee plans for a major police operation across the capital. Some 16,000 police were on duty last night—treble the usual number—with back-up being brought in from across the country.

The measures came in response to rioting that had spread across London as well as Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham. On Tuesday evening reports emerged of additional disturbances in Manchester, adjacent Salford and West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in the Midlands.

The riots were triggered by the police killing of 29-year-old Tottenham resident Mark Duggan by an officer of the Specialist Firearm Command (CO19) last Thursday evening. A peaceful protest of Duggan’s family and supporters on Saturday evening was brutally attacked by riot police, sparking a wave of unrest.

Late Monday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), acknowledged that Duggan had not opened fire on police, as had originally been claimed. It said ballistic tests presented “no evidence” that a handgun, found at the scene where Duggan was killed, had been fired at officers.

The IPCC found that a CO19 firearms officer fired two bullets, one of which lodged in a police radio after possibly passing through Duggan’s body. Duggan had also been hit in the arm.

The statement confirms accounts that Duggan was the victim of police, who acted as judge, jury and executioner. Yet no one has been held to account for his killing. The officer involved has simply been removed from duty. The inquest into Duggan’s death was adjourned on Tuesday pending an IPCC investigation that could take six months.

Moreover, long-simmering discontent over worsening social conditions and police brutality is being completely passed over by the official political parties and the media. Manifestly, police killings are acceptable to these layers, but any response to it is to be met with the full force of the state.

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