Daily Archives: November 18, 2012

Big Brother, Kill Lists, and Secrecy: What to Expect From Obama’s Second Term

antiwar.com | Nov 17, 2012

by Christian Stork

Following Barack Obama’s significant electoral victory, the ways in which the President will interpret his new “mandate” are still very much up for debate. While pundits, many of whom got the election seriously wrong, fumble to come up with new predictions, an analysis of Obama’s track record and statements on national security policy can be quite illuminating. Two momentous stories of the past few weeks can help us evaluate current and future prospects for our Constitutional rights, a year after Osama bin Laden’s death and a decade after 9/11. One grim harbinger of what’s to continue: a nighttime drone strike in Yemen that killed three “al-Qaida militants” was carried out within 24 hours of Obama’s victory speech.

But even more important was the bombshell story that appeared in the Washington Post on October 23, revealing the existence of a new database within the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) that will list suspected terrorists and militants slated for extrajudicial assassination. The article details the creation of a “next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’” which “contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled” to kill them, including the ability to map “plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”

Additionally, on October 29, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Amnesty v. Clapper, evaluating a lawsuit filed by journalists, human rights workers, and lawyers, who claimed that their jobs are unnecessarily hampered by the specter of the National Security Agency eavesdropping on their communications with clients overseas. As described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “the [Supreme] Court will essentially determine whether any court… can rule on whether the [National Security Agency]’s targeted warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international communications violates the Constitution.”

What do NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and the Obama administration’s recently developed “disposition matrix” have to do with one another? Two points resound in particular. First, both are only able to function in an environment of total secrecy. Also, they represent significant advances in the codification of a new norm for U.S. national security policy—one very much at odds with the constitutionally limited Commander-in-Chief of common lore.

Perhaps even more ominously, the infrastructure development of the Obama administration’s policy of targeted killing signals a creeping move toward domestic application. As drone technology continues to be imported home, the convergence of the kill-list(s) within the NCTC bureaucracy—which houses huge repositories of both domestic and foreign intelligence with no probable cause of criminality—is a foreboding development in this saga of eroding checks and disappearing balance.

Climbing Out of the Abyss, Jumping Back In

Unknown to the American people and to much of their government until the late 1970’s, NSA has enjoyed free rein to intercept the electronic communications of Americans and foreigners since its secret inception in 1952. To those who were familiar with it, the uniform joke was that NSA stood for “No Such Agency,” an indication of its covert and prized status within the intelligence community.

After media revelations of intelligence abuses by the Nixon administration began to mount in the wake of Watergate, NSA became the subject of Congressional ire in the form of the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities—commonly known as the “Church Committee” after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D-ID)—established on January 17, 1975. This ad-hoc investigative body found itself unearthing troves of classified records from the FBI, NSA, CIA and Pentagon that detailed the murky pursuits of each during the first decades of the Cold War. Under the mantle of defeating communism, internal documents confirmed the executive branch’s use of said agencies in some of the most fiendish acts of human imagination (including refined psychological torture techniques), particularly by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Cold War mindset had incurably infected the nation’s security apparatus, establishing extralegal subversion efforts at home and brutish control abroad. It was revealed that the FBI undertook a war to destroy homegrown movements such as the Black Liberation Movement (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), and that NSA had indiscriminately intercepted the communications of Americans without warrant, even without the President’s knowledge. When confronted with such nefarious enterprises, Congress sought to rein in the excesses of the intelligence community, notably those directed at the American public.

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Obama Mind Control – The Delphi Technique

Israel authorizes 75,000 reservist troops, preparing for a possible Gaza invasion

Reuters | Nov 16, 2012

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller

(Reuters) – Israel’s cabinet authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 reservists late on Friday, preparing the ground for a possible Gaza invasion after Palestinians fired a rocket toward Jerusalem for the first time in decades.

Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial centre, also came under rocket attack for the second straight day, in defiance of an Israeli air offensive that began on Wednesday with the declared aim of deterring Hamas from launching cross-border attacks that have plagued southern Israel for years.

Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for firing at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel said the rocket launched toward Jerusalem landed in the occupied West Bank, and the one fired at Tel Aviv did not hit the city. There were no reports of casualties.

The siren that sounded in Jerusalem stunned many Israelis. The city, holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, was last struck by a Palestinian rocket in 1970, and it was not a target when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq fired missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a four-hour strategy session with a clutch of senior ministers in Tel Aviv on widening the military campaign, while other cabinet members were polled by telephone on raising the mobilization level.

Political sources said they decided to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75,000. The move did not necessarily mean all would be called into service.

Hours earlier, Egypt’s prime minister, denouncing what he described as Israeli aggression, visited Gaza and said Cairo was prepared to mediate a truce.

Officials in Gaza said 29 Palestinians – 13 militants and 16 civilians, among them eight children and a pregnant woman – had been killed in the enclave since Israel began its air strikes. Three Israeli civilians were killed by a rocket on Thursday.

The Israeli military said 97 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel on Friday and 99 more were intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system. Dozens of Israeli bombing raids rocked the enclave, and one flattened the Gaza Interior Ministry building.

In a further sign Netanyahu might be clearing the way for a ground operation, Israel’s armed forces announced that a highway leading to the territory and two roads bordering the enclave of 1.7 million Palestinians would be off-limits to civilian traffic.

Tanks and self-propelled guns were seen near the border area on Friday, and the military said it had already called 16,000 reservists to active duty.

Netanyahu is favorite to win a January national election, but further rocket strikes against Tel Aviv, a free-wheeling city Israelis equate with New York, and Jerusalem, which Israel regards as its capital, could be political poison for the conservative leader.

“The Israel Defence Forces will continue to hit Hamas hard and are prepared to broaden the action inside Gaza,” Netanyahu said before the rocket attacks on the two cities.

Asked about Israel massing forces for a possible Gaza invasion, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “The Israelis should be aware of the grave results of such a raid, and they should bring their body bags.”

SOLIDARITY VISIT

A solidarity visit to Gaza by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, whose Islamist government is allied with Hamas but also party to a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, had appeared to open a tiny window to emergency peace diplomacy.

Kandil said: “Egypt will spare no effort … to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce.”

But a three-hour truce that Israel declared for the duration of Kandil’s visit never took hold.

Israel Radio’s military affairs correspondent said the army’s Homefront Command had told municipal officials to make civil defence preparations for the possibility that fighting could drag on for seven weeks. An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

The Gaza conflagration has stoked the flames of a Middle East already ablaze with two years of Arab revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to leap across borders.

It is the biggest test yet for Egypt’s new President Mohamed Mursi, a veteran Islamist politician from the Muslim Brotherhood who was elected this year after last year’s protests ousted military autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood are spiritual mentors of Hamas, yet Mursi has also pledged to respect Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, seen in the West as the cornerstone of regional security. Egypt and Israel both receive billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to underwrite their treaty.

Mursi has vocally denounced the Israeli military action while promoting Egypt as a mediator, a mission that his prime minister’s visit was intended to further.

A Palestinian official close to Egypt’s mediators told Reuters Kandil’s visit “was the beginning of a process to explore the possibility of reaching a truce. It is early to speak of any details or of how things will evolve”.

Hamas fighters are no match for the Israeli military. The last Gaza war, involving a three-week long Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year period of 2008-2009, killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis died.

Tunisia’s foreign minister was due to visit Gaza on Saturday “to provide all political support for Gaza” the spokesman for the Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, said in a statement.

The United States asked countries that have contact with Hamas to urge the Islamist movement to stop its rocket attacks.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. By contrast, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules in the nearby West Bank, does recognize Israel, but peace talks between the two sides have been frozen since 2010.

Abbas’s supporters say they will push ahead with a plan to have Palestine declared an “observer state” rather than a mere “entity” at the United Nations later this month.

Pentagon Tells Obama 75,000 Troops Needed Go After WMD’s in Syria

Pentagon Says 75,000 Troops Might Be Needed to Seize Syria Chemical Arms

NY Times | Nov 15, 2012

By DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT

 WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has told the Obama administration that any military effort to seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would require upward of 75,000 troops, amid increasing concern that the militant group Hezbollah has set up small training camps close to some of the chemical weapons depots, according to senior American officials.

The estimated size of the potential effort, provided to the White House by the military’s Central Command and Joint Staff, called into question whether the United States would have the resources to act quickly  if it detected  the movement of chemical weapons and forced President Obama, as he said in August, to “change my calculus” about inserting American forces into Syria. So far Mr. Obama has avoided direct intervention into the most brutal civil conflict to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings,  and the Pentagon assessment was seen as likely to reinforce that reluctance.

The White House on Thursday declined to comment on the Defense Department’s assessment.

The Pentagon has not yet been directed to draft detailed plans of how it could carry out such a mission, according to military officials. There are also contingency plans, officials say, for securing a more limited number of the Syrian chemical weapons depots, requiring fewer troops.

The discovery that Hezbollah has set up camps close to some of the depots, however, has renewed concern that as the chaos in Syria deepens, the country’s huge chemical weapons stockpiles could fall into the wrong hands. Hezbollah fighters have been training at “a limited number of these sites,” said one senior American official who has been briefed on the intelligence reports and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But the fear these weapons could fall into the wrong hands is our greatest concern.”

So far, there is no evidence that Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon but has become increasingly active in protecting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, is making any effort to gain control over the chemical weapons. Its decision to train fighters close to the major chemical sites, some officials speculate, could be rooted in a bet that their camps will not be bombed if the West believes there is a risk of hitting the stockpiles.

Mr. Assad has openly threatened to retaliate beyond his country’s borders if outside forces try to break the current stalemate to unseat him, and there is renewed concern about whether he or his proxies might use the chemical weapons as their last shield. Officials say that attacks along the borders with Turkey and Israel have forced the administration to consider the risks of Syria’s troubles spreading in the region.

Mr. Obama has been clear for more than a year that he would resist direct American intervention, but in August he said one circumstance would cause him to revisit that position. “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” he said at a news conference. “That would change my calculus.”

Mr. Obama brought those concerns up again in a news conference on Wednesday, saying that the United States was in close contact with Turkey and Jordan “and obviously Israel, which is having already grave concerns as we do about, for example, movements of chemical weapons that might occur in such a chaotic atmosphere and that could have an impact not just within Syria but on the region as a whole.”

The American concerns have been heightened by another sign that Mr. Assad may be arming himself to strike out — Syria’s continued imports of missile technology, even at a time when the Assad government is reeling under sanctions.

Syria already has a vast arsenal of missiles able to reach Turkey or strike Israel, and in the past it has provided Hezbollah with missiles. But American officials voice concern over even modest improvements in Syria’s missile stockpiles.

American intelligence and security officials, in interviews in recent days, said that the United States had picked up evidence that North Korea had resumed providing Syria with some missile technology, including assistance with Scud missiles.

A shipment of graphite cylinders that could be used in missiles and are suspected to have come from North Korea were found in May aboard a Chinese ship en route to Syria, Reuters reported Wednesday. North Korean technicians and engineers stationed in Syria have recently increased their efforts on a joint program to improve the Scud D missile’s accuracy and the warhead’s ability to defeat interceptors, IHS Jane’s International Defense Review reported in June.

Given the chaos in Syria, and Mr. Assad’s daily effort to survive, it is not clear what condition the Syrian missile program is in. The Turkish military has expressed worry about Syria’s ballistic missiles and its chemical weapons stocks. Concerned about this potential threat, Turkey and NATO nations have informally been discussing the possibility that some of the alliance’s Patriot antimissile system could be sent to Turkey, which has no Patriot batteries of its own.

Independent analysts expressed concern that if Mr. Assad is backed into a corner, he could use or threaten to use missiles tipped with chemical weapons against the rebels, despite the threat of Western intervention if he did.

“There is credible information that the Assad regime has been upgrading and expanding its chemical weapons arsenal, which needs to be maintained,” said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “A credible delivery capability is also needed, hence the North Korean angle.”

The estimation that it would take 75,000 troops to neutralize the chemical weapons grew out of what Mr. Obama, in his August news conference, referred to as extensive contingency planning for how the United States would respond if the chemical weapons were on the move or appeared vulnerable.

“The problem is that you can’t just pick this stuff up and ship it out of the country,” said one senior military official who has studied the problem. The chances of contamination of nearby Syrian towns, and of attacks on the effort to move the weapons, were simply too high. Because many of the containers holding the material are old, or of unknown reliability, the risk of leakage is high.

As a result, the official said, much of the chemical stockpiles might have to be destroyed in place. That is a lengthy, dangerous job, and would require enormous force protection around the sites. When the United States went through similar efforts to destroy its own stockpiles — under strict environmental regulations that would likely not apply in Syria — the process took years.

A second official familiar with the plans disputed the idea that all of the stockpiles would have to be destroyed in place. Some, he suggested, could be airlifted out for destruction elsewhere or burial at sea. “There are several options,” he said, “but all carry varying degrees of risk.”

That official said that rebel groups receiving nonlethal help from the United States have been asked to mark and secure any chemical weapons sites they come across.

The United States has varying estimates of how many sites exist, with the C.I.A. estimating about three dozen and the military using figures in the high 40s.

Officials said that the United States military had quietly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there, among other things, to prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons.

Bilderberg Group Quietly Meets in Italy

Activist Post | Nov 17, 2012

by Brandon Turbeville

While the attention of most Americans was focused on whatever trivia dished out from the mainstream media such as the current hot celebrity or the David Petraeus incident, it appears that the Bilderberg Group has arranged what some have described as an impromptu meeting in Rome, Italy.

Yet, although much of the European press is dark on the issue, which is unfortunately characteristic of the mainstream media in any nation, some Italian newspapers are reporting the information regarding the meeting.

According to 21stCenturyWire, the agenda apparently centered around the fate of EU countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece, three nations that have been hit hard with the worldwide derivatives crisis and the subsequent imposition of austerity.

Various newspapers from all across Italy are reporting that around 80 members of the Bilderberg Group, particularly the Bilderberg Steering Committee, have been called to Rome for a semi-secret meeting to discuss the unfolding events of the engineered crisis.

In contradiction to the traditional methods of secrecy used by the Bilderberg Group such as renting entire hotels for days on end and dispensing with the guests and even some of the workers during the conference, this Italian Bilderberg meeting is taking place at the same time as another popular event, the Rome Film Festival.

Thus, instead of meeting in total secret, it appears the Bilderberg Group is attempting to hide its treachery in plain sight while blending in with the rest of the crowd of actors, actresses, directors, and general celebrities.

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Robot Artificial Muscles To Be Stronger Than Humans

In the farther future, artificial muscles could give robots more natural-looking facial expressions.
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Tiny nanofibers are 200 times stronger than human muscle.discovery.com | Nov 15, 2012

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They’re small but mighty. The tiny artificial muscles created by an international team of researchers are 200 times stronger than human muscle fibers of comparable size. In the future, improved versions of the muscles could go into the next generation of movers and doers.

Tiny nanofibers are 200 times stronger than human muscle.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” said Richard Vaia, who studies high-tech materials at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Vaia was not involved in the making of the new muscle.

The moving parts in robots, airplanes and other mechanical things are generally powered by motors. Researchers around the world have been trying to create artificial muscles that work more the way natural muscles do, to allow for more- delicate movements than mechanisms can achieve.

Ray Baughman, a nanotechnology researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas, led the team that made the new muscle, which he sometimes calls a yarn because of the way it’s woven. The muscles would work well in small medical devices, he said. His lab in Texas has thought of another creative use for them, too: “We’ve been playing with yarns to open and close blinds depending on the temperature of the room,” he told TechNewsDaily.

In the farther future, artificial muscles could give robots more natural-looking facial expressions, Baughman said.

The lab wants to try to manufacture longer ropes of the muscle, so it can weave a protective fabric for firefighters’ uniforms. The fabric would automatically seal its pores when faced with a sudden flash, Baughman said.

Nanotube Muscles

Baughman’s new muscles are made of ropes of carbon nanotubes, a super-tiny, high-tech material that researchers are adding to everything from water filters to experimental airplane parts. Baughman said he and his team twisted the nanotubes — “quite similarly to the way people insert twists into common wool or cotton fibers” — into thicker yarns. They then filled the hollow space in the nanotubes with different materials, including paraffin, the wax that goes in candles.

To get the muscles to contract, researchers heated them briefly. When heated, the paraffin wax expanded, pushing against the nanotube walls and making them fatter and shorter. As the wax cooled again, it shrank, and the nanotubes became narrower and longer. The muscles were able to shorten and then lengthen again every 25 milliseconds, or 25 thousandths of a second, Baughman said. Such fast contractions mean the muscles are able to perform a lot of work, he said.

The combination of carbon nanotubes and wax impresses Vaia. “The novel thing was how they utilized the properties of the two, came up with the correct processing to put them together,” he said.

Fabrics for the Future

Right now, Baughman’s lab knows how to make a muscle fiber that’s one kilometer (0.62 miles) long, but Baughman hopes one day to weave fabrics that require miles of fiber.

He also is looking to make the muscles react to chemicals instead of heat. Heat-driven motors are energy-inefficient, so chemical-driven muscles might be more practical.

Baughman and his colleagues wrote about their work today (Nov. 15) in the journal Science.