Saturday, September 4, 2010

How Different Is Obama from Bush on Terrorism?

The U.S. president has found himself caught in some old legal traps -- while creating new ones of his own.

After five years of waiting, Omar Khadr was finally slated to go on trial in Guantánamo Bay this summer -- and then suddenly, the gears ground to a halt. The problem was not that Khadr was just 15 years old when, according to the charges, he threw a grenade in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan and killed a U.S. soldier. Nor was Barack Obama's administration having second thoughts about restarting the military tribunals that had been stopped when he took office. Instead, the problem lay in the criminal charge against Khadr: fighting without a uniform. According to news reports, Harold Koh, the legal advisor to the State Department, pointed out that CIA agents and private contractors who fire missiles from U.S. drones are civilians too. By charging Khadr with a war crime, the United States might be opening its own operators to the same charge.

This week, a judge set a new and theoretically final date for Khadr's trial, Oct. 18. But the defendant's long journey to the courtroom perfectly encapsulates the difficulties facing the Obama administration when it comes to the legal war on terror. First there are holdover problems from the previous administration: Guantánamo itself, the detainees held there, and some aggressive but not always well-thought-out legal theories. These are troubling to advocates of international law -- some of whom, like Koh, a longtime human rights champion, now work for the government and cannot possibly be happy about, for example, life imprisonment for a crime committed by a 15-year-old child soldier. Then there are new legal challenges associated with the administration's own national defense strategies -- especially the use of drones, which has increased substantially in recent years.

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Blackwater won contracts with web of companies

Network let it obscure involvement from contracting officials and public

By James Risen and Mark Mazzetti

New York Times
updated 9/4/2010 12:07:58 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sovereign Debt Worries Will Last 10 Years: Strategist

Published: Wednesday, 1 Sep 2010

4:18 AM ET Text Size By: Patrick Allen
CNBC Senior News Editor

Short-term fiscal pressures are more manageable than most investors realize, but problems will be far more difficult to deal with over the next 10 years, according to Andrew Milligan, the head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments in London.

“There are significant long-term risks from high levels of public debt sector debt," Milligan told CNBC Wednesday. "In Particular, there are potential funding problems, crowding out effects and sovereign debt rating concerns for a decade to come."

“We argue that the impact of tax increases and spending cuts will be more moderate than bearish commentators are arguing," he said. "However, we do warn about the longer-term risks facing governments: unfunded liabilities mean difficult tax and spending decisions.”

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Fact Check: Is Iraq Combat Really Over for U.S.?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

By Calvin Woodward and Robert Burns, Associated Press

Washington (AP) - Despite President Barack Obama's declaration Tuesday that the combat mission in Iraq has ended, combat almost certainly lies ahead.

And in asserting the U.S. has met its responsibilities in Iraq, the president opened the door wide to a debate about the meaning of success in the muddle that most -- but not all -- American troops are leaving behind.

A look at some of the statements Obama made in his Oval Office speech and how they compare with the facts:
OBAMA: "Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended."

THE FACTS: Peril remains for the tens of thousands of U.S. troops still in Iraq, who are likely if not certain to engage violent foes. Counterterrorism is chief among their continuing missions, pitting them against a lethal enemy. Several thousand special operations forces, including Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, will continue to hunt and attempt to kill al-Qaida and other terrorist fighters -- working closely with Iraqi forces. Obama said, "Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission," while stopping short of a full accounting of the hazards ahead for U.S. troops.


OBAMA: "We have met our responsibility."

THE FACTS: That depends entirely on how the U.S. responsibility is defined.

Sectarian division -- the danger that Obama said as a presidential candidate had to be addressed before Iraq could succeed -- continues to deprive the country of a fully functioning government. U.S. goals for reconstruction are unmet. And although the U.S. says Iraqi forces can handle the insurgency largely on their own, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter a possible attack by a neighboring state.

It was the U.S. that invaded Iraq, overthrew its government, disbanded its security forces and failed in the early phases of the conflict to understand the depth of Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divisions and its political paralysis. The U.S. in some minds is responsible for putting Iraq back together again, yet today Iraq has no permanent government and its security forces arguably are not fully prepared to defend the country's skies and borders.

In inheriting a war he opposed from the start, Obama did not accept U.S. responsibilities so broadly.

It will take time to see if his more limited view of success bears out. In May, he said: "This is what success looks like: an Iraq that provides no haven to terrorists; a democratic Iraq that is sovereign and stable and self-reliant."

Al-Qaida terrorists are "not gone" from Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday. But he hailed "an important victory against transnational terror" because "al-Qaida in Iraq has been largely cut from its masters abroad."


OBAMA: "Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has shortchanged investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits."

THE FACTS: This is partly true. For sure, the costly Iraq and Afghanistan wars have contributed to the nation's budget deficit -- but not by as much as Obama suggests. The current annual deficit is now an estimated $1.5 trillion. But as recently as 2007, the budget deficit was just $161.5 billion. And that was years after war expenses were in place for both the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

Most of the current deficit is due to the longest recession since the 1930s. It has seriously depressed tax revenues while increasing costs to the government -- including social safety-net programs such as unemployment insurance and spending by both the outgoing Bush and incoming Obama administrations on stimulus programs and on bailouts of banks and automakers.


OBAMA: "This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office."

THE FACTS: At one stage of the presidential campaign, Obama spoke of an earlier departure of troops than he ultimately achieved. "I have put forward a plan that will get our troops out by the end of 2009," he said in a January 2008 Democratic candidates debate. But his pledge for most of the campaign was to withdraw combat troops within 16 months, a promise essentially kept.

THE FACTS: At one stage of the presidential campaign, Obama spoke of an earlier departure of troops than he ultimately achieved. "I have put forward a plan that will get our troops out by the end of 2009," he said in a January 2008 Democratic candidates debate. But his pledge for most of the campaign was to withdraw combat troops within 16 months, a target missed just by a few months.


OBAMA: "Our dedicated civilians -- diplomats, aid workers, and advisers -- are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world."

THE FACTS: Although Obama said the U.S. commitment to Iraq's future does not end with the combat mission, he made no mention of an emerging debate in Congress over paying for the diplomatic mission the State Department says is necessary. Plans for U.S. diplomatic posts in Iraq already are being scaled back as Congress sees the winding down of the war as a signal to invest elsewhere.


OBAMA: "Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who -- under the command of Gen. David Petraeus -- are fighting to break the Taliban's momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future."

THE FACTS: Obama is reciting almost the exact language of the Bush administration's rationale for the Iraq surge: to buy time and space for the Iraqis to reach political accommodations and to strengthen their own security forces. That's quite a change from Obama's stand as a presidential candidate, when he criticized it. Obama seems to be embracing the troop surge logic now, even though it's clear that the Iraqis have yet to achieve the necessary level of reconciliation to form an enduring government.


Associated Press writer Tom Raum contributed to this report

One American Died Every 15 Hours, on Average, in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Members of the U.S. Air Force honor guard prepare to fire a 21-gun salute at a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on March 11, 2009. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
( – One U.S. soldier, Marine, airman or sailor died every 15 hours, on average, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which officially ends on Tuesday -- almost seven-and-a-half years after U.S.-led forces invaded to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The Defense Department puts the U.S. death toll for the conflict, which began on March 20, 2003, at 4,421 fatalities, 3,492 of them in combat (including nine civilian DOD employees).

Of the 89 months of the mission, the deadliest was not during the escalation that prompted the troop “surge” of 2007 but in November 2004, when 139 troops were killed in combat, according to a database of U.S. fatalities in Iraq.

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Obama formally ends Iraq combat mission

President says nation’s top priority now is repairing economy

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alex Jones: In Every Case in History, Slaves are Disarmed

The United States constitution says that every citizen has the right to carry a gun for self defense. However, five years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina people were having their guns taken from them and collected by law enforcement. Alex Jones says that much of the looting that occurred in New Orleans in the immediate days after Hurricane Katrina hit land was done by police and other civil officers.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

US Attempts To Extradite 9/11 FEMA Videographer From Argentina

Press TV

August 27, 2010

Kurt Sonnenfeld, a man who was provided provisory refugee status seven years ago, is now wanted by the US government on murder charges.

He is the only cameraman that filmed crucial images of Ground Zero in New York after the Twin Towers collapsed.

Sonnenfeld, who lives in Buenos Aires with his Argentine family, says the footage proves that 9/11 was a lie. He still has the 22-hour footage that US authorities want.

“I have promised to give my footage to the big investigators that are credible and widely known – investigators who will be able to detect anomalies that I or other people without scientific education might miss. With that in mind, I hope that there are many things they can discover that disprove the current official story of what happened,” Sonnenfeld told a Press TV correspondent.

He says he fears for his life if he is sent back to the United States to face trial.

The Denver police have claimed they have evidence that show he killed his first wife in the US.

Social activists who are campaigning for Sonnenfeld to be given refugee status in Argentina say the Denver police are lying.

The Sonnenfelds say they have been under police surveillance and that their phone has been tapped.

Sonnenfeld claims that his footage proves top US government officials were aware of the 2001 terrorist attacks before they occurred says he is a victim of a US plot to silence his 9/11 conspiracy theory.

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