Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party!

Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party!

By: Doug Muder

Tea Partiers say you don't understand them because you don't understand American history. That's probably true, but not in the way they want you to think.

Late in 2012, I came out of the Lincoln movie with two historical mysteries to solve:

  • How did the two parties switch places regarding the South, white supremacy, and civil rights? In Lincoln's day, a radical Republican was an abolitionist, and when blacks did get the vote, they almost unanimously voted Republican. Today, the archetypal Republican is a Southern white, and blacks are almost all Democrats. How did American politics get from there to here?
  • One of the movie's themes was how heavily the war's continuing carnage weighed on Lincoln. (It particularly came through during Grant's guided tour of the Richmond battlefield.) Could any cause, however lofty, justify this incredible slaughter? And yet, I realized, Lincoln was winning. What must the Confederate leaders have been thinking, as an even larger percentage of their citizens died, as their cities burned, and as the accumulated wealth of generations crumbled? Where was their urge to end this on any terms, rather than wait for complete destruction?

The first question took some work, but yielded readily to patient googling. I wrote up the answer in "A Short History of White Racism in the Two-Party System". The second turned out to be much deeper than I expected, and set off a reading project that has eaten an enormous amount of my time over the last two years. (Chunks of that research have shown up in posts like "Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor", "Cliven Bundy and the Klan Komplex", and my review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' article on reparations.) Along the way, I came to see how I (along with just about everyone I know) have misunderstood large chunks of American history, and how that misunderstanding clouds our perception of what is happening today.

Who really won the Civil War? The first hint at how deep the second mystery ran came from the biography Jefferson Davis: American by William J. Cooper. In 1865, not only was Davis not agonizing over how to end the destruction, he wanted to keep it going longer. He disapproved of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and when U. S. troops finally captured him, he was on his way to Texas, where an intact army might continue the war.

That sounded crazy until I read about Reconstruction. In my high school history class, Reconstruction was a mysterious blank period between Lincoln's assassination and Edison's light bulb. Congress impeached Andrew Johnson for some reason, the transcontinental railroad got built, corruption scandals engulfed the Grant administration, and Custer lost at Little Big Horn. But none of it seemed to have much to do with present-day events.

And oh, those blacks Lincoln emancipated? Except for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, they vanished like the Lost Tribes of Israel. They wouldn't re-enter history until the 1950s, when for some reason they still weren't free.

Here's what my teachers' should have told me: "Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won." I think that would have gotten my attention.

It wasn't just that Confederates wanted to continue the war. They did continue it, and they ultimately prevailed. They weren't crazy, they were just stubborn.

The Lost Cause. At about the same time my American history class was leaving a blank spot after 1865, I saw Gone With the Wind, which started filling it in like this: Sadly, the childlike blacks weren't ready for freedom and full citizenship. Without the discipline of their white masters, many became drunks and criminals, and they raped a lot of white women. Northern carpetbaggers used them (and no-account white scalawags) as puppets to control the South, and to punish the planter aristocrats, who prior to the war had risen to the top of Southern society through their innate superiority and virtue.

But eventually the good men of the South could take it no longer, so they formed the Ku Klux Klan to protect themselves and their communities. They were never able to restore the genteel antebellum society — that Eden was gone with the wind, a noble but ultimately lost cause — but they were eventually able to regain the South's honor and independence. Along the way, they relieved their beloved black servants of the onerous burden of political equality, until such time as they might become mature enough to bear it responsibly.

A still from The Birth of a Nation

That telling of history is now named for its primary proponent, William Dunning. It is false in almost every detail. If history is written by the winners, Dunning's history is the clearest evidence that the Confederates won. [see endnote 1]

Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel had actually toned it down a little. To feel the full impact of Dunning-school history, you need to read Thomas Dixon's 1905 best-seller, The Clansman: a historical romance of the Ku Klux Klan. Or watch the 1915 silent movie made from it, The Birth of a Nation, which was the most popular film of all time until Gone With the Wind broke its records.

The iconic hooded Klansman on his horse, the Knight of the Invisible Empire, was the Luke Skywalker of his day.

The first modern war. The Civil War was easy to misunderstand at the time, because there had never been anything like it. It was a total mobilization of society, the kind Europe wouldn't see until World War I. The Civil War was fought not just with cannons and bayonets, but with railroads and factories and an income tax.

If the Napoleonic Wars were your model, then it was obvious that the Confederacy lost in 1865: Its capital fell, its commander surrendered, its president was jailed, and its territories were occupied by the opposing army. If that's not defeat, what is?

But now we have a better model than Napoleon: Iraq.

After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877. Before and after 1877, the insurgents used lynchings and occasional pitched battles to terrorize those portions of the electorate still loyal to the United States. In this way they took charge of the machinery of state government, and then rewrote the state constitutions to reverse the postwar changes and restore the supremacy of the class that led the Confederate states into war in the first place. [2]

By the time it was all over, the planter aristocrats were back in control, and the three constitutional amendments that supposedly had codified the U.S.A's victory over the C.S.A.– the 13th, 14th, and 15th — had been effectively nullified in every Confederate state. The Civil Rights Acts had been gutted by the Supreme Court, and were all but forgotten by the time similar proposals resurfaced in the 1960s. Blacks were once again forced into hard labor for subsistence wages, denied the right to vote, and denied the equal protection of the laws. Tens of thousands of them were still physically shackled and subject to being whipped, a story historian Douglas Blackmon told in his Pulitzer-winning Slavery By Another Name.

So Lincoln and Grant may have had their mission-accomplished moment, but ultimately the Confederates won. The real Civil War — the one that stretched from 1861 to 1877 — was the first war the United States lost.

The missed opportunity. Today, historians like Eric Foner and Douglas Egerton portray Reconstruction as a missed opportunity to avoid Jim Crow and start trying to heal the wounds of slavery a century sooner. Following W.E.B. DuBois' iconoclastic-for-1935 Black Reconstruction, they see the freedmen as actors in their own history, rather than mere pawns or victims of whites. As a majority in Mississippi and South Carolina, and a substantial voting bloc across the South, blacks briefly used the democratic system to try to better their lot. If the federal government had protected the political process from white terrorism, black (and American) history could have taken an entirely different path.

In particular, 1865 was a moment when reparations and land reform were actually feasible. Late in the war, some of Lincoln's generals — notably Sherman — had mitigated their slave-refugee problem by letting emancipated slaves farm small plots on the plantations that had been abandoned by their Confederate owners. Sick or injured animals unable to advance with the Army were left behind for the slaves to nurse back to health and use. (Hence "forty acres and a mule".) Sherman's example might have become a land-reform model for the entire Confederacy, dispossessing the slave-owning aristocrats in favor of the people whose unpaid labor had created their wealth.

Instead, President Johnson (himself a former slave-owner from Tennessee) was quick to pardon the aristocrats and restore their lands. [3] That created a dynamic that has been with us ever since: Early in Reconstruction, white and black working people sometimes made common cause against their common enemies in the aristocracy. But once it became clear that the upper classes were going to keep their ill-gotten holdings, freedmen and working-class whites were left to wrestle over the remaining slivers of the pie. Before long, whites who owned little land and had never owned slaves had become the shock troops of the planters' bid to restore white supremacy.

Along the way, the planters created rhetoric you still hear today: The blacks were lazy and would rather wait for gifts from the government than work (in conditions very similar to slavery). In this way, the idle planters were able to paint the freedmen as parasites who wanted to live off the hard work of others.

The larger pattern. But the enduring Confederate influence on American politics goes far beyond a few rhetorical tropes. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

That worldview is alive and well. During last fall's government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: "The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule."

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.

That was the victory plan of Reconstruction. Black equality under the law was guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. But in the Confederate mind, no democratic process could legitimate such a change in the social order. It simply could not be allowed to stand, and it did not stand.

In the 20th century, the Confederate pattern of resistance was repeated against the Civil Rights movement. And though we like to claim that Martin Luther King won, in many ways he did not. School desegregation, for example, was never viewed as legitimate, and was resisted at every level. And it has been overcome. By most measures, schools are as segregated as ever, and the opportunities in white schools still far exceed the opportunities in non-white schools.

Today, ObamaCare cannot be accepted. No matter that it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, found constitutional by the Supreme Court, and ratified by the people when they re-elected President Obama. It cannot be allowed to stand, and so the tactics for destroying it get ever more extreme. The point of violence has not yet been reached, but the resistance is still young.

Violence is a key component of the present-day strategy against abortion rights, as Judge Myron Thompson's recent ruling makes clear. Legal, political, social, economic, and violent methods of resistance mesh seamlessly. The Alabama legislature cannot ban abortion clinics directly, so it creates reasonable-sounding regulations the clinics cannot satisfy, like the requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Why can't they fulfill that requirement? Because hospitals impose the reasonable-sounding rule that their doctors live and practice nearby, while many Alabama abortionists live out of state. The clinics can't replace them with local doctors, because protesters will harass the those doctors' non-abortion patients and drive the doctors out of any business but abortion. A doctor who chooses that path will face threats to his/her home and family. And doctors who ignore such threats have been murdered.

Legislators, of course, express horror at the murder of doctors, just as the pillars of 1960s Mississippi society expressed horror at the Mississippi Burning murders, and the planter aristocrats shook their heads sadly at the brutality of the KKK and the White Leagues. But the strategy is all of a piece and always has been. Change cannot stand, no matter what documents it is based on or who votes for them. If violence is necessary, so be it.

Unbalanced. This is not a universal, both-sides-do-it phenomenon. Compare, for example, the responses to the elections of our last two presidents. Like many liberals, I will go to my grave believing that if every person who went to the polls in 2000 had succeeded in casting the vote s/he intended, George W. Bush would never have been president. I supported Gore in taking his case to the Supreme Court. And, like Gore, once the Court ruled in Bush's favor — incorrectly, in my opinion — I dropped the issue.

For liberals, the Supreme Court was the end of the line. Any further effort to replace Bush would have been even less legitimate than his victory. Subsequently, Democrats rallied around President Bush after 9/11, and I don't recall anyone suggesting that military officers refuse his orders on the grounds that he was not a legitimate president.

Barack Obama, by contrast, won a huge landslide in 2008, getting more votes than any president in history. And yet, his legitimacy has been questioned ever since. The Birther movement was created out of whole cloth, there never having been any reason to doubt the circumstances of Obama's birth. Outrageous conspiracy theories of voter fraud — millions and millions of votes worth — have been entertained on no basis whatsoever. Immediately after Obama took office, the Oath Keeper movement prepared itself to refuse his orders.

A black president calling for change, who owes most of his margin to black voters — he himself is a violation of the established order. His legitimacy cannot be conceded.

Confederates need guns. The South is a place, but the Confederacy is a worldview. To this day, that worldview is strongest in the South, but it can be found all over the country (as are other products of Southern culture, like NASCAR and country music). A state as far north as Maine has a Tea Party governor.

Gun ownership is sometimes viewed as a part of Southern culture, but more than that, it plays a irreplaceable role in the Confederate worldview. Tea Partiers will tell you that the Second Amendment is our protection against "tyranny". But in practice tyranny simply means a change in the established social order, even if that change happens — maybe especially if it happens — through the democratic processes defined in the Constitution. If the established social order cannot be defended by votes and laws, then it will be defended by intimidation and violence. How are We the People going to shoot abortion doctors and civil rights activists if we don't have guns?

Occasionally this point becomes explicit, as when Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle said this:

You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that's not where we're going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

Angle wasn't talking about anything more "tyrannical" than our elected representatives voting for things she didn't like (like ObamaCare or stimulus spending). If her side can't fix that through elections, well then, the people who do win those elections will just have to be intimidated or killed. Angle doesn't want it to come to that, but if liberals won't yield peacefully to the conservative minority, what other choice is there?

Gun-rights activist Larry Pratt doesn't even seem regretful:

"The Second Amendment is not for hunting, it's not even for self-defense," Pratt explained in his Leadership Institute talk. Rather, it is "for restraining tyrannical tendencies in government. Especially those in the liberal, tyrannical end of the spectrum. There is some restraint, and even if the voters of Brooklyn don't hold them back, it may be there are other ways that their impulses are somewhat restrained. That's the whole idea of the Second Amendment."

So the Second Amendment is there not to defend democracy, but to fix what the progressive "voters of Brooklyn" get wrong.

It's not a Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party protest was aimed at a Parliament where the colonists had no representation, and at an appointed governor who did not have to answer to the people he ruled. Today's Tea Party faces a completely different problem: how a shrinking conservative minority can keep change at bay in spite of the democratic processes defined in the Constitution. That's why they need guns. That's why they need to keep the wrong people from voting in their full numbers.

These right-wing extremists have misappropriated the Boston patriots and the Philadelphia founders because their true ancestors — Jefferson Davis and the Confederates — are in poor repute. [4]

But the veneer of Bostonian rebellion easily scrapes off; the tea bags and tricorn hats are just props. The symbol Tea Partiers actually revere is the Confederate stars and bars. Let a group of right-wingers ramble for any length of time, and you will soon hear that slavery wasn't really so bad, that Andrew Johnson was right, that Lincoln shouldn't have fought the war, that states have the rights of nullification and secession, that the war wasn't really about slavery anyway, and a lot of other Confederate mythology that (until recently) had left me asking, "Why are we talking about this?"

By contrast, the concerns of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and its revolutionary Sons of Liberty are never so close to the surface. So no. It's not a Tea Party. It's a Confederate Party.

Our modern Confederates are quick to tell the rest of us that we don't understand them because we don't know our American history. And they're right. If you knew more American history, you would realize just how dangerous these people are.


[1] The other clear evidence stands in front of nearly every courthouse in the South: statues of Confederate heroes. You have to be blind not to recognize them as victory monuments. In the Jim Crow era, these stone sentries guarded the centers of civic power against Negroes foolish enough to try to register to vote or claim their other constitutional rights.

Calhoun way up high

In Away Down South: a history of Southern identity, James C. Cobb elaborates:

African Americans understood full well what monuments to the antebellum white regime were all about. When Charleston officials erected a statue of proslavery champion John C. Calhoun, "blacks took that statue personally," Mamie Garvin Fields recalled. After all, "here was Calhoun looking you in the face and telling you, 'Nigger, you may not be a slave but I'm back to see you stay in your places.' " In response, Fields explained, "we used to carry something with us, if we knew we would be passing that way, in order to deface that statue — scratch up the coat, break up the watch chain, try to knock off the nose. … [C]hildren and adults beat up John C. Calhoun so badly that the whites had to come back and put him way up high, so we couldn't get to him."

[2] The vocabulary of this struggle is illuminating. A carpetbagger was a no-account Northerner who arrived in the South with nothing more than the contents of a carpetbag. A scalawag was a lower-class Southern white who tried to rise above his betters in the post-war chaos. The class-based nature of these insults demonstrates who was authorizing this history: the planter aristocrats.

For a defense of the claim that the aristocrats intentionally led the South into war, see Douglas Egerton's Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War.

[3] Though Congress had to find other "high crimes and misdemeanors" for their bill of impeachment, Johnson's betrayal of the United States' battlefield victory was the real basis of the attempt to remove him.

[4] Jefferson Davis and the Confederates also misappropriated the Founders. It started with John Calhoun's Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, published posthumously in 1851, which completely misrepresented the Founders and their Constitution. Calhoun's view (that the Union was a consortium of states with no directly relationship to the people) would have made perfect sense if the Constitution had begun "We the States" rather than "We the People".

Calhoun disagreed with Jefferson on one key point: All men are not created equal.

Modern conservatives who attribute their views to the Founders are usually unknowingly relying on Calhoun's false image of the Founders, which was passed down through Davis and from there spread widely in Confederate folklore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Undercover Audio: Intimidation Tactics of Texas Anti-Abortion Groups

Why the SCOTUS Ruling about a buffer zone was so wrong - the terroristic tactics, along with harassment and stalking must be stopped!

~ God Killing Fetuses and Pregnant Women ~ 

Hosea 9:11-16  - God makes all pregnant women in Ephraim miscarry.
"I will slay even the beloved fruit of their womb."

Numbers 31:17  - Kill all Mid'ean women who might be pregnant.
"kill every women that hath known man by lying with him."

Hosea 13:16  - Pregnant Samarian women are slaughtered.
"their women with child shall be ripped up."

2 Kings 15:16  - God "ripped open" the pregnant women of Tappuah.

Also, 20% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. If everything that happens is Gods will, then he commits abortion on a daily basis that would embarrass the worst baby killers in history. Stop pretending like your God cares about fetuses. Obviously he does not. So stop using him as an excuse to hate your fellow human beings. You are simply hateful people. Get over yourselves and grow up.

Baby Bison & other Critters - 8-13-2014

Here are some critter pictures from the last month or so. Enjoy!

Monday, July 28, 2014

We keep emailing

Hey, I get hundreds of e-mails from you all everyday, but I live at the poverty level on Social Security Disability. I'm also a veteran who has been waiting almost 6 years to get knee replacement surgery from the VA, so my life consists of me sitting at home, in extreme pain everyday and nothing else, and you wonder why 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Fucking help me, as you have all your rich wall street guys who can help you all, but quit bugging the shit out of me every single day for money---I DON"T HAVE ANY TO GIVE YOU ALL! PERIOD!
From: Steve
Sent: Monday, July 28, 2014 1:52 PM
Subject: FW: We keep emailing

Hey, just wanted to make sure you saw this email from President Obama?

----------Original Message----------

From: Barack Obama
Subject: We keep emailing

Joe Biden has emailed you.

Michelle has emailed you.

And now I've emailed you.

We wouldn't all be asking if it wasn't so important.

Right now, Republicans in Congress are trying to sue me for simply doing my job. Yes, it's outrageous. But it also makes this the most important fundraising deadline we've faced together. We're down to our last 72 hours and still coming up 100,000 donations short of our goal. Can I count on you?

All Gifts Today Triple-Matched!

If you've saved your payment information, your donation will go through immediately:


Barack Obama

Steve Israel
DCCC Chairman

Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee | 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-1500 | | Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

This message was sent to: | Change or update your email address by clicking here. We believe that emails are a crucial way for our campaign to stay in touch with supporters. Click here if you'd like to unsubscribe from these messages. Thanks for your support of Democrats!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Putin's Secret Weapon!

Russia's swashbuckling military intelligence unit is full of assassins, arms dealers, and bandits. And what they pulled off in Ukraine was just the beginning.

BY Mark Galeotti | JULY 7, 2014

There are two ways an espionage agency can prove its worth to the government it serves. Either it can be truly useful (think: locating a most-wanted terrorist), or it can engender fear, dislike, and vilification from its rivals (think: being named a major threat in congressional testimony). But when a spy agency does both, its worth is beyond question. 

Since the Ukraine crisis began, the Kremlin has few doubts about the importance of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence apparatus. The agency has not only demonstrated how the Kremlin can employ it as an important foreign-policy tool, by ripping a country apart with just a handful of agents and a lot of guns. The GRU has also shown the rest of the world how Russia expects to fight its future wars: with a mix of stealth, deniability, subversion, and surgical violence. Even as GRU-backed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine lose ground in the face of Kiev's advancing forces, the geopolitical landscape has changed. The GRU is back in the global spook game and with a new playbook that will be a challenge for the West for years to come. 

Recent years had not been kind to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, the Glavnoe razvedyvatelnoe upravlenie (GRU). Once, it had been arguably Russia's largest intelligence agency, with self-contained stations -- known as "residencies" -- in embassies around the world, extensive networks of undercover agents, and nine brigades of special forces known as Spetsnaz. 

By the start of 2013, the GRU was on the ropes. Since 1992, the agency had been in charge of operations in the post-Soviet countries, Russia's "near abroad." But Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have seen it as increasingly unfit for that purpose. When the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's domestic security agency, was allowed to run operations abroad openly in 2003, one insider told me that this was because "the GRU doesn't seem to know how to do anything in our neighborhood except count tanks." (It may not even have done that very well. Putin regarded the GRU as partly responsible for Russia's lackluster performance in the 2008 invasion of Georgia.) There was a prevailing view in Moscow that the GRU's focus on gung-ho "kinetic operations" like paramilitary hit squads seemed less relevant in an age of cyberwar and oil politics. 

Political missteps also contributed to the GRU's diminished role. Valentin Korabelnikov, the agency's chief from 1997 to 2009, seemed more comfortable accompanying Spetsnaz assassination teams in Chechnya than playing palace politics in Moscow. His criticisms of Putin's military reforms put him on the Kremlin's bad side too. Korabelnikov was sacked in 2009 and replaced with soon-to-be-retired Col. Gen. Alexander Shlyakhturov, who, within two years, was rarely seen in the GRU's headquarters due to his bad health. In December 2011 the GRU welcomed its third head in nearly three years, Maj. Gen. Igor Sergun, a former attaché and intelligence officer with no combat experience and the lowest-ranking head of the service in decades. By the end of 2013, the Kremlin seemed to be entertaining the suggestion that the agency be demoted from a "main directorate" to a mere directorate, which would have been a massive blow to the service's prestige and political access. 

In many ways, a demotion for the GRU seemed inevitable. Since 2008, the GRU had suffered a savage round of cuts during a period when most of Russia's security and intelligence agencies' budgets enjoyed steady increases. Eighty of its hundred general-rank officers had been sacked, retired, or transferred. Most of the Spetsnaz were reassigned to the regular army. Residencies were downsized, sometimes even to a single officer working undercover as a military attaché. 

What a difference a few months can make. What the Kremlin had once seen as the GRU's limitations -- a focus on the "near abroad," a concentration on violence over subtlety, a more swashbuckling style (including a willingness to conduct assassinations abroad) -- have become assets. 

The near-bloodless seizure of Crimea in March was based on plans drawn up by the General Staff's Main Operations Directorate that relied heavily on GRU intelligence. The GRU had comprehensively surveyed the region, was watching Ukrainian forces based there, and was listening to their communications. The GRU didn't only provide cover for the "little green men" who moved so quickly to seize strategic points on the peninsula before revealing themselves to be Russian troops. Many of those operatives were current or former GRU Spetsnaz

There is an increasing body of evidence that the so-called defense minister of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, Igor Strelkov, whose real name is Igor Girkin, is a serving or reserve GRU officer, who likely takes at the very least guidance, if not orders, from the agency's headquarters. As a result, the European Union has identified him as GRU "staff" and has placed him on its sanctions list. Although the bulk of the insurgents in eastern Ukraine appear to be Ukrainians or Russian "war tourists" -- encouraged, armed, and facilitated by Moscow -- there also appear to be GRU operators on the ground helping to bring guns and people across the border.
It was only when the Vostok Battalion appeared in eastern Ukraine at the end of May that the GRU's full re-emergence became clear. This separatist group bears the same name as a GRU-sponsored Chechen unit that was disbanded in 2008. This new brigade -- composed largely of the same fighters from Chechnya -- seemed to spring from nowhere, uniformly armed and mounted in armored personnel carriers. Its first act was to seize the administration building in Donetsk, turfing out the motley insurgents who had made it their headquarters. Having established its credentials as the biggest dog in the pack, Vostok began recruiting Ukrainian volunteers to make up for Chechens who quietly drifted home. 
Alexander Khodakovsky, a defector from the Security Service of Ukraine, subsequently announced that he was the battalion's commander. But this only happened a few days after the seizure of the Donetsk headquarters. The implication is that the battalion was originally commanded by GRU representatives. Vostok appears intended not so much to fight the regular Ukrainian forces -- though it has -- but rather to serve as a skilled and disciplined enforcer of Moscow's authority over the militias if need be. 

The Vostok Battalion makes Moscow's strategy clear: The Kremlin has no desire for outright military conflict in its neighbors. Instead, the kind of "non-linear war" being waged in Ukraine, which blends outright force, misinformation, political and economic pressure, and covert operations, will likely be its means of choice in the future. These are the kinds of operations in which the GRU excels. 

After all, while Moscow is not going to abandon its claims to being a global power, in the immediate future Russia's foreign-policy focus will clearly be building and maintaining its hegemony in Eurasia. These are also the areas where the GRU is strongest. For example, in Kazakhstan, whose Russian-heavy northern regions are a potential future target for similar political pressure through local minorities, the GRU is the lead intelligence provider, as its civilian counterpart, the SVR, is technically barred from operating in Kazakhstan or any of the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States by the 1992 Alma-Ata Declaration

The combination of these factors means that the GRU now looks far more comfortable and confident than it did a year ago. Kiev outed and expelled a naval attaché from the Russian Embassy as a GRU officer, and Sergun, the GRU's head, made it onto the list of officials under Western sanctions. But neither of these actions has done the agency any harm. If anything, they have increased the GRU's prestige. 

Talk of downgrading the GRU's status is conspicuously absent in Moscow circles. The agency's restored status means it is again a player in the perennial turf wars within the Russian intelligence community. More importantly, it means that GRU operations elsewhere in the world are likely to be expanded again and to regain some of their old aggression. 

The GRU's revival also demonstrates that the doctrine of "non-linear war" is not just an ad hoc response to the particularities of Ukraine. This is how Moscow plans to drive forward its interests in today's world. The rest of the world has not realized this now, even though Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov spelled it out in an obscure Russian military journal last year. He wrote that the new way of war involves "the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures … supplemented by military means of a covert nature character," not least with the use of special forces. 

This kind of conflict will be fought by spies, commandos, hackers, dupes, and mercenaries -- exactly the kind of operatives at the GRU's disposal. Even after the transfer of most Spetsnaz out of the GRU's direct chain of command, the agency still commands elite special forces trained for assassination, sabotage, and misdirection, as Ukraine shows. The GRU has also demonstrated a willingness to work with a wide range of mavericks. In Chechnya, it raised not just the Vostok Battalion but other units of defectors from guerrillas and bandits. The convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout is generally accepted to have been a part-time GRU asset too. The GRU is less picky than most intelligence agencies about who is cooperates with, which also means that it is harder to be sure who is working for them. 

NATO and the West still have no effective response to this development. NATO, a military alliance built to respond to direct and overt aggression, has already found itself at a loss on how to deal with virtual attacks, such as the 2007 cyberattack on Estonia. The revival of the GRU's fortunes promises a future in which the Cold War threat of tanks spilling across the border is replaced by a new kind of war, combining subterfuge, careful cultivation of local allies, and covert Spetsnaz strikes to achieve the Kremlin's political aims. NATO may be stronger in strictly military terms, but if Russia can open political divisions in the West, carry out deniable operations using third-party combatants, and target strategic individuals and facilities, it doesn't really matter who has more tanks and better fighter jets. This is exactly what the GRU is tooling up to do. 

 Original article located here:

Photo by VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sir Nicholas Winton - BBC Programme "That's Life" aired in 1988

Sir Nicholas Winton who organized the rescue and passage to Britain of
about 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children destined for the Nazi
death camps before World War II in an operation known as the Czech
Kindertransport. This video is the BBC Programme "That's Life" aired in
1988. The most touching video ever.

Sir Nicholas Winton is a humanitarian who organized a rescue operation that saved the lives of 669 Jewish Czechoslovakia children from Nazi death camps, and brought them to the safety of Great Britain between the years 1938-1939.

After the war, his efforts remained unknown. But in 1988, Winston’s wife Grete found the scrapbook from 1939 with the complete list of children’s names and photos. This is a clip of a video where Sir Nicholas Winton is sitting in an audience of Jewish Czechoslovakian people who he saved 50 years before.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Poor Have It Easy? Yup, Conservatives Are Giant Jerks & ClueLESS. Who Is Surprised?

"The Poor Have It Easy? Yup, Conservatives Are Giant Jerks & ClueLESS. Who Is Surprised?"
Author: June 29, 2014 8:42 pm

Poverty is simple. Poor people don’t try hard enough to help themselves and like the good “easy” welfare life.
Democrats don’t get Republicans’ views on poverty. They might as well be speaking Romanian or Ukrainian for that matter. So how about a bit of translation?

In Republicanland there is a village of hyper-lazy people, aka The Lazies. They live in someone else’s house, eat their food, sleep until noon and lay around the rest of the day taking drugs or indulging in some other form of entertainment.

Most of us know someone like that both Democrats and Republicans. The Lazies are too lazy to pick a party – the kid who never wants to leave home or the spoiled sister who sits around eating bon-bons (whatever those are) while her husband works all day and cleans house and the kids all night. We resent them. We have to work, why don’t they? We despise them. After all, lazy people are kind of disgusting. And in a way, we envy them. It would be nice to stay home once in a while. Who doesn’t wish they could get out from under all that responsibility once in a while? And let someone else do the cooking and cleaning!

But Republicanland draws KIS. Not the rock group. No the “Keep It Simple” crowd. Life is busy. There isn’t enough time for family, work and home let alone getting ahead in life and dealing with childhood diseases. So the simple party messages are good. They are easy to remember and sound plausible. They are also convenient lies built upon a shaky foundation of rotten statistics.
That allows lies to run rampant across the Republicanland countryside.
  • Welfare costs $1 trillion. I know, because the Cato Institute tells me so. If the more accurate figure is $212 billion, who is going to quibble?
  • The reason people are poor is that all poor people are lazy. They all have character flaws. If the government would just kick them out, they would have to get a job.
  • Big government is an all-consuming monster throwing the people’s money all over the place. And don’t want to hear that poverty programs are 90-95% efficient programs with minimal overhead costs – even though they are.
  • Free stuff makes people complacent. It is just too disgusting to look too deeply into the poverty pot where the food doesn’t last until the end of the month, the car breaks down and can’t be replace and “never enough” means “never good credit.” And it is too disturbing to believe most people wouldn’t want to live in poverty given the choice.
The problem in Republicanland is that poverty is not simple. It can’t be broken down into “the poor have it easy” and “a lack of effort” causes poverty.

Those who have the real power know that it is wiser to have their minions fighting amongst themselves that with them. So it behooves those in power to have Republicans and Democrats going at it tooth and nail.

What if both parties turned to the real source of their economic strife? What if they figured out how to deal with those who squeeze every spare cent (and half-cent fraction) out of the economy:
  • Who caused the housing bubble to burst?
  • Who is undermining the unions?
  • Who siphoned off all the business and union retirement packages?
  • Who is responsible for the low-end and high-end influx of foreign workers?
  • Who is pricing education out of the reach of most American kids?
  • Who is forcing the minimum wage down to the low-end of the pool?
  • Who is convincing the public that it is okay for them to work 30 hours more per week for a salary than it was three or four decades ago?
  • Who exported all the good jobs and called it NAFTA and is trying for the same deal in the Pacific?
  • Who changed the bankruptcy laws to benefit everyone but the person filing?
  • Who let a stunning infrastructure wither and die when no one was looking?
  • Who thought up contracting out government and business jobs to strip off all benefits?
  • Who is creating the sound-bite simple lies like, “If you work hard, you’ll get somewhere,” or Trickle-down Economics works?”
In the “Leave It To Beaver” age, employees trusted their company to take care of them if they worked hard. When that changed and companies were out for companies, employees were slow to divest themselves of that lie. Maybe it’s time to figure out more. So we can explain it to the Republicans.


Fairness of the Economic System, Views of the Poor and the Social Safety Net!

There is public agreement that the U.S. economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, and even more Americans believe that large corporations in this country are too powerful. But on both issues, Business Conservatives offer strongly dissenting views; they are the only typology group in which a majority sees the economic system as fundamentally fair.

Overall, the public has long been split over government assistance to the poor and needy. Yet while attitudes about the social safety net generally divide the right from the left, the Next Generation Left stand out among Democratically-oriented groups for their opposition to increased assistance to the needy if it means adding to the nation’s debt.

Business Conservatives Stand Out for Belief in Fairness of Economic System

Overall, 62% of Americans say this country’s economic system “unfairly favors powerful interests,” compared with just 34% who think the system “is generally fair to most Americans.” There is variance in opinions about economic fairness among Democratically-oriented groups. For instance, while 88% of Solid Liberals say the economic system is unfair, only about half (51%) of the Faith and Family Left agree.

Yet Business Conservatives are the only group – on the right or left – in which most believe the economic system is fair to most people. Fully 67% say the economic system is fair to most Americans, and 47% of Steadfast Conservatives agree. Among the GOP-leaning Young Outsiders, just 29% think the system is fair while more than twice as many (69%) do not.

As their name implies, Business Conservatives also have much more positive views of major corporations than do other Americans. Fully 57% think that the largest companies do not have too much power; no more than one-in-four in other typology groups share this view. Even among Steadfast Conservatives, 71% say large corporations are too powerful.

Mixed Views of Wall Street 

However, there is greater agreement among the two conservative groups about whether corporate profits are appropriate: Majorities of both Business Conservatives (86%) and Steadfast Conservatives (62%) say “most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit.”  This view is shared far less widely among other typology groups: Majorities of Solid Liberals (80%), Hard-Pressed Skeptics (79%), and Young Outsiders (66%) say corporations “make too much profit.” But the Faith and Family Left and Next Generation Left are more divided; a narrow majority of the Faith and Family Left (54%) and half of the Next Generation Left (50%) say corporate profits are excessive.

Not only do Business Conservatives have the most positive views of corporations, they also are more likely than other typology groups to say that Wall Street helps more than hurts the U.S. economy. But in this case, they are joined by a 56% majority of the Next Generation Left.

Overall, 45% say Wall Street helps the U.S. economy more than it hurts, while about as many (42%) say it hurts the economy more than it helps. Views of Wall Street have improved since 2012, when more saw it as having a net negative than net positive impact (48%-36%).

Majorities of Business Conservatives (74%) and the Next Generation Left (56%) think that Wall Street does more to help the economy. The most negative views of Wall Street’s effect on the economy come from Solid Liberals (56% hurt more than help) and Hard-Pressed Skeptics (54%). The three other groups have more divided views of Wall Street’s impact.

Government Aid to the Poor

Views of government aid to the poor are much more polarized along partisan lines than attitudes about the fairness of the economic system. Groups on the right overwhelmingly believe government aid to the poor does more harm than good, while those on the left say it has a positive impact.

Fully 86% of Steadfast Conservatives and Young Outsiders, along with 80% of Business Conservatives, say government aid to the poor does more harm than good by making people too dependent on government assistance. Majorities in the three Democratically-oriented groups, as well as the Democratic-leaning Hard-Pressed Skeptics, express the opposite view—that government aid to the poor does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met.

Next Generation Left See Government Aid to Poor as Doing More Good Than Harm,  But Worry About Impact on Nation’s Debt

However, while most of the Next Generation Left (68%) support government aid to the poor in principle, they balk at the costs to the federal government. Overall, 56% say that the government can’t afford to do much more to help the needy, while fewer (39%) say the government should do more to help the needy even if it means going deeper into debt.

By contrast, majorities of Solid Liberals (83%), Hard-Pressed Skeptics (66%) and the Faith and Family Left (58%) all say the government should do more to help needy Americans even if it results in more debt.

Views of Poverty and the Poor

The public is split in their views of whether government aid to the poor is justified: While 44% say the poor “have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return,” about as many (47%) believe poor people “have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently.”

Wide Differences Between Right and Left Over Why Some People are Poor

Wide majorities of Steadfast Conservatives (86%) and Business Conservatives (77%) say poor people have it easy; they are joined in this view by 81% of the Republican-leaning Young Outsiders. By contrast, 86% of Solid Liberals think the poor have hard lives and that benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently; 71% of Hard-Pressed Skeptics agree. Smaller majorities of the Faith and Family Left (62%) and the Next Generation Left (54%) also say this.

There is a similar pattern in opinions about why a person is poor: Overall, 50% say it is more often because of circumstances beyond an individual’s control; 39% think a lack of effort is more to blame. Majorities of Steadfast Conservatives (61%), Business Conservatives (58%) and Young Outsiders (56%) say a lack of effort is more often to blame for why a person is poor.

Among Democratically-oriented groups, 86% of Solid Liberals and 62% of the Faith and Family Left say that the poor have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently; 71% of Hard-Pressed Skeptics also express this view. But the Next Generation Left are more conflicted in their views: About as many say a lack of effort is usually to blame for why a person is poor (42%) as say poverty is the result of circumstances outside of one’s control (47%).

Does Hard Work Lead to Success?

Solid Liberals, Hard-Pressed Skeptics Doubt that Hard Work Leads to Success  

Americans continue to offer broad support for the idea that hard work leads to success in this country. Nearly two-thirds of the public (65%) say most people who want to get ahead can make it if they’re willing to work hard, while just 32% say hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people.

However, majorities of two typology groups – Hard-Pressed Skeptics and Solid Liberals – reject the American ideal that hard work is all it takes to succeed.

Hard-Pressed Skeptics face the most difficult financial circumstances of all the typology groups and 65% say hard work is no guarantee of success, compared with just 32% who say most people can get ahead if they’re willing to work hard.

Solid Liberals are a relatively affluent group, but by a 67%-29% margin, they also do not believe that hard work can guarantee success for most people.

Across the five other typology groups, at least three-quarters say most people who want to get ahead can make it if they’re willing to work hard. The Democratically-oriented Faith and Family Left and Next Generation Left are about as likely to hold this view as the three Republican-oriented groups.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Evolve - The Bill of Rights for Dumbasses

Take action. Sign the code:

Evolve believes that a third voice is needed in the gun debate. Contrary to what some think, there are important common values that resonate with both gun owners and non-gun owners alike. Safety and reduction of gun violence are of paramount importance to both. We focus on voluntary actions, taken on by individuals, to avoid gun preventable firearms deaths and gun violence.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exclusive: Scapegoating the whistleblower!

Exclusive: Scapegoating the Whistleblower! 

How a former CIA officer’s efforts to get Congress to investigate the rendition and torture of a CIA captive failed!
CIA operative Sabrina De Sousa
CIA operative Sabrina De Sousa, who has been convicted in absentia in Italy of the kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, in Milan in 2003. De Sousa says she did not know about the incident, and even if she did, she says she should be given immunity because she was a diplomat.
Barbara L. Salisbury / MCT / Landov

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama made many promises. One notable pledge was that, as president, he would strengthen whistleblower-protection laws to make it easier for federal employees to report waste, fraud and abuse in government.
“Often the best source of information … is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out,” Obama said, in a campaign fact sheet entitled “The Change We Need in Washington.” “We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”
Since then, Obama has signed an executive order and a bill strengthening the rights of whistleblowers. But the new law does not provide the same protections to government employees who work in the intelligence community and want to report wrongdoing. Former undercover CIA officer Sabrina De Sousa found that out the hard way.
In 2005, De Sousa, who was officially listed as a State Department diplomat assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Milan, was implicated in the rendition of a radical Egyptian cleric in Italy named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, better known as Abu Omar. Italy had granted him political asylum in 2001 after the Egyptian government alleged that he was part of a terrorist group. While in Italy, Abu Omar spoke out publicly and vehemently against U.S. military action in Iraq prior to the March 2003 invasion. Italy responded by placing him under surveillance.

Abu Omar in Cairo
Abu Omar at an Amnesty International press conference in 2007. He was kidnapped in Milan in February 2003 and taken to a high-security prison outside Cairo, where, he says, he was subjected to torture.
Khaled Desouki / AFP / Getty Images

On Feb. 17, 2003, while walking to his local mosque, Abu Omar was approached by an Italian police officer and longtime CIA informant named Luciano Ludwig Pironi, who asked to see his passport. Moments later, a white van pulled up and Abu Omar was shoved inside. He was then flown to Egypt, where, he said, he was subjected to brutal torture techniques, such as electric shocks, for four years. When Italian authorities tried to locate Abu Omar, U.S. officials told them he had disappeared into the Balkans.
Italy launched an investigation into Abu Omar’s abduction in 2005, and in 2007 more than two dozen Americans suspected of being involved in the rendition, including De Sousa, who Italian law enforcement officials alleged was one of the masterminds of the operation, were indicted. Nineteen of the Americans whom Italy indicted and convicted, De Sousa says, were not working under their true identities. This meant she was one of the few “real” operatives accountable for the rendition.
But De Sousa insists she never played an active role in the execution of the rendition. She says she worked as a translator between the CIA rendition team and the Italian military-intelligence-and-security service, which was involved in the early stages of planning the rendition. In November 2009, she was sentenced in absentia to a five-year prison term in Italy.
Abu Omar was released from detention in Egypt in 2007 and remains there with his family. He has filed a civil claim against De Sousa. Last year, Italy convicted him in absentia on terrorism charges in what appears to be an attempt to cover up the Italian government’s own role in his rendition.
Last year, for the first time, De Sousa revealed that she was a CIA operative working for the National Clandestine Service (NCS). For nearly a decade, she had been working behind-the-scenes firing off letters to members of Congress and executive branch officials, informing them that the U.S. violated international laws when the CIA decided to kidnap Abu Omar.
De Sousa has never publicly discussed all the efforts she undertook to alert government officials and lawmakers that the Abu Omar’s kidnapping was a “colossal mistake” and convince them to investigate her claims of wrongdoing, which implicate top CIA officials. She told Al Jazeera that she first contacted top Bush administration officials, but received no response. In 2009, hoping the response would be different under Obama, she disclosed to then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton what she says are troubling details about her treatment by the U.S. government in the aftermath of her whistleblowing. But, like the Bush administration officials before them, they also ignored her pleas, De Sousa says, and the CIA turned her into a “scapegoat” while the executive branch looked away.

Blowing the whistle -

Though she was aware of the plans to capture Abu Omar, De Sousa says, she was eventually “cut out” because she did not get along with the CIA station chief in Milan, Robert Lady, and that on the day of the operation she was skiing with her family.
There was nothing definitive in the classified cables, De Sousa says, about the threat the CIA said Abu Omar posed to national security as the rendition operation was being planned. “The cable was full of ‘suspected of,’ ‘alleged to.’ Nothing that said ‘he was responsible for.’ Nothing definitive,” De Sousa says.
De Sousa describes her CIA colleagues in Rome and Cairo as acting like keystone cops in the aftermath of Abu Omar’s rendition, trying to figure out who had the evidence against him to present to Egypt so he could be prosecuted.
“The CIA station chief in Cairo said to Jeffrey Castelli [CIA station chief in Rome] ‘Where’s the evidence?’ Castelli said, ‘I thought you had the information.’ And Cairo said, ‘We don’t have it. We thought you had it.’ Castelli says, ‘We don’t have it.’ Then Cairo says, “We issued this arrest warrant on your behalf. So where is the evidence?" The blunder ultimately forced Egypt to set Abu Omar free.
“This is exactly when the whole cover-up started,” she says. “It turns out there was a big miscommunication between Cairo Station and Rome Station. There wasn’t any prosecutable evidence against Abu Omar. It’s why he was never picked up by the Italians. But Castelli decided he wanted a rendition and he got one.”
De Sousa alleges that Castelli was gunning for a promotion to a coveted CIA position in New York City and to land it someone had to be subjected to extraordinary rendition. “Who could he pick out from this target list of 10 people he had. Abu Omar because it was the easiest. Why was it the easiest? Because he was already under surveillance by the Italians and they were sharing information [with the CIA],” De Sousa says.
Castelli, who now works at a private security firm in Arlington, Virginia, called Endgame, did not respond to requests for comment.
“Abu Omar was a nobody,” De Sousa says. “The renditions are meant for imminent, very dangerous threats and [are meant to be used in]countries that are incapable of laws that would allow them to pick up people who pose threats to national security. They’re not meant for a country like Italy already following the guy around.”
De Sousa says that, based on her reading of classified CIA cables, there were “four people responsible for this thing”: Castelli; a shadowy figure identified as “Agent X,” whom De Sousa would not discuss further and who told Lady to make sure the Abu Omar rendition was executed; Tyler Drumheller, former chief of CIA covert operations in Europe; and Pironi, the CIA informant and Italian police officer.
But De Sousa says Italy demanded that people be held accountable for the embarrassing mistake and the CIA chose her and several of her colleagues. “Despite the circumstantial charges against me, the CIA scapegoated me to deflect attention from those who authorized the rendition and also prevent further investigations into the operation,” De Sousa says. “Also, I believe I was left out of the initial immunity deal [Italy agreed to for other, more senior officers] in retaliation for my interaction with Congress.”

A policeman stands during the first trial over the secret US
The first trial over the secret U.S. "extraordinary rendition" program, in Milan in 2007, with 25 CIA agents among the defendants charged with the kidnapping of Abu Omar.
Giuseppe Cacace / AFP / Getty Images

In 2005, after the investigation in Italy began, the CIA instituted a travel ban for the officers connected to the rendition because arrest warrants had been issued for them in Europe. De Sousa, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born and raised in India and whose family still lives there, was concerned she would not be able to see her elderly parents. She was able to make one trip back home in September 2005 (the CIA approved it as long as she could avoid traveling through Europe) to see her father, who was hospitalized and later passed away. The following year, she asked the agency if it would pay for her mother to the U.S. for Christmas. But CIA officials balked. (De Sousa’s family was unaware of her employment with the CIA).
“They said, ‘You don’t qualify for the funds.’ They told my attorney they didn’t want to set a precedent,” she recalls. “We’re talking about $8,000. They were spending millions on this cover-up.” De Sousa says she saw the writing on the wall. “They wanted me out,” she says. “They knew what my limit was. They knew that the minute they tried to force me to sign memos saying I wouldn’t travel overseas they knew I would resign.”
But it didn’t happen as quickly as the agency would have liked. De Sousa spent three years trying to work through internal channels to bring a resolution to her case, at first raising questions about why the agency had not invoked diplomatic immunity for her and then calling attention to the rendition and alleged torture of Abu Omar by the Egyptians.
“I went through the whole thing internally,” De Sousa says. “I started off by approaching my supervisor, and then I went to the ombudsman at CIA. He was a great guy. He tried to go to bat for me and he was told to lay off. He said, ‘I can’t communicate with you anymore due to a seventh-floor edict [at the agency’s Langley headquarters where the director and other top officials work].’ I then went to the inspector general. The IG said, ‘It’s not part of our charter or mission to deal with this.”
Yet after she approached the watchdog’s office, the inspector general at the time, John Helgerson, said he wanted to launch an investigation into the rendition, De Sousa says, an assertion confirmed in a 2008 report published byThe New York Times. But the head of the NCS, Jose Rodriguez, who would later come under federal investigation for his role in ordering the destruction of nearly 100 interrogation videotapes of two high-value detainees held at black-site CIA prisons, said no. NCS would conduct its own review, Rodriguez said. In other words, the division of the CIA that De Sousa says screwed up would investigate itself.
Then-CIA Director Michael Hayden also convened an accountability-review board to look into the rendition. De Sousa asked to see the results but was told she was not authorized because she wasn’t involved in the rendition, despite the fact that she had been indicted and convicted for it.
“So I went to Congress informally,” De Sousa says. “I went to Linda Cohen, the liaison with CIA [for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence]. I said, ‘Linda, did you see this review-board report?’ She said, ‘Oh, they’re smart. They sent this to committee. They put a such a high classification on it none of the staffers could see it.’” Cohen did not respond to requests for comment.
De Sousa wrote to Rodriguez and Hayden. But they did not respond to her inquiries either. “So then I started sending letters to Congress,” she says. De Sousa sent letters to members of Congress who sat on the House and Senate intelligence committees, including Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Kit Bond and Reps. Pete Hoekstra, Silvestre Reyes and Jan Schakowsky. But she says Rockefeller, Bond, Hoekstra and Reyes did not respond and Schakowsky, whose staff she met with, did not help her.
In February 2009, De Sousa resigned from the CIA, forfeiting her retirement. “I get up every morning and say, ‘Why?’ In 16 years I never saw anything like this,” she says. “I didn’t sign up for this. If they told me when I signed up ‘By the way, just to let you know, it’s possible if something happens we’re going to disavow and you may not see your family again,’ I would have said, ‘I’m not doing this.’”
She continued firing off letters. On May 18, 2009, she wrote to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “For three years, I tried every option for resolution available to me, both with my employer and in letters to the heads of several Departments and Agencies, as well as Congress and the Senate in both administrations without success,” she wrote.
Powell was Secretary of State when the Abu Omar rendition took place. He responded a couple of weeks later. “Thank you for your letter. I regret the situation you are in, but since the matter is in litigation, I am unable to be of any help,” Powell wrote. “Further, I have no knowledge about any of these matters that would give me a basis to comment or intercede.”
De Sousa says Powell’s State Department would have had to have authorized Abu Omar’s rendition, because Italy is a NATO member and the rendition took place on Italian soil.
In 2009, De Sousa sued the State Department for failing to invoke diplomatic immunity, which she argued she was entitled to as a State Department diplomat. The U.S. government retorted during a federal court hearing that it was not responsible for the actions of a foreign court. A federal district-court judge dismissed De Sousa’s case but the judge described her treatment by government officials in the Obama administration as “appalling.”
A year after she wrote to Powell, however, De Sousa secured two important meetings: one with Schakowsky’s staff and another with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff.

The intelligence committees -

Schakowsky is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). She had initially expressed interest in attending the meeting, but never showed up, De Sousa says. Prior to the meeting, Adam Lurie, the staff director and counsel for HPSCI’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations, asked De Sousa’s attorney, Mark Zaid, if she would be invoking the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. Zaid replied that she wouldn’t.
When De Sousa met with Schakowsky’s staffers, she says, they did not believe her claims. “They asked how did I know [about the mistakes the CIA made in rendering Abu Omar]? I said I read the cables,” De Sousa recalls. She says Schakowsky’s office never followed up. Lee Whack, a spokesman for Schakowsky, told Al Jazeera, “We are unable to comment on this issue. The congresswoman takes very seriously the privacy of anyone who brings issues to the committee. That said, we cannot discuss classified work conducted by the committee.”
De Sousa also met with Feinstein’s staff. The powerful chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), has publicly proclaimed her support for whistleblowers and urged intelligence-community employees to air their grievances with select members of Congress. De Sousa enlisted the human rights organization Human Rights First to help set up the meeting. The organization sent a letter to David Grannis, the staff director for SSCI.
De Sousa communicated via email with Grannis in August 2010 after he expressed interest in hearing what she could disclose about Abu Omar’s rendition. Grannis told her the best way for her to share the information with him “is either by hard-copy delivery” or “via secure fax.” De Sousa prepared a memo and hand delivered it to the SSCI’s security director, Jim Wolfe. She never heard from Grannis or anyone else on the intelligence committee again, she says.
An SSCI staffer, however, denies that the panel did not investigate De Sousa’s claims. The staffer says De Sousa met with “SSCI staff multiple times on subjects that I cannot confirm openly but that she was raising at the time as concerns with CIA actions.”
“Committee staff followed up with CIA independently to seek CIA’s views and explanations,” the staffer says. “Any contention that the SSCI did nothing is simply factually untrue.” De Sousa says she was never informed about any inquiries the committee made about her with the CIA.
At the time De Sousa disclosed details about the Abu Omar rendition to Grannis, the SSCI was one year into a review of the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The committee prepared a voluminous report on the program, the executive summary of which is currently undergoing a declassification review, and concluded that the approximately two dozen “war on terror” suspects were illegally rendered and secretly held by the CIA.
For years, De Sousa believed Abu Omar’s case would be included in the committee’s report. “It has to be,” she says. “It’s such a bungled case and it also involves torture by proxy governments [Egypt].” But the SSCI staffer told Al Jazeera in an email that the “executive summary and findings and conclusions of the committee’s report,” that is the portions due to be declassified, “do not reference Abu Omar.”
“There are passing references to him elsewhere in the report, but I wouldn’t want you to have the impression that the report focuses on him or alleged CIA actions involving him to any significant degree,” the aide said.
The CIA would not comment on the allegations De Sousa leveled against the agency or respond to questions about the Abu Omar rendition.

False promises -

Recently, Feinstein said that former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden could have and should have come to her with evidence of the agency’s mass surveillance of Americans instead of handing over a trove of highly classified documents to journalists.
De Sousa believes Feinstein would have ignored Snowden, just as her staff did, according to De Sousa, when she came to them with evidence of alleged wrongdoing by the CIA in the Abu Omar case.
And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told NPR’s Terry Gross that Snowden could have “expressed his concerns” in other ways, such as “reaching out to some of the senators” about the legality of NSA spy programs.
But when De Sousa’s attorney, Mark Zaid, wrote to Clinton at the State Department to raise concerns about her treatment and Abu Omar’s rendition and torture he never received a reply.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed an intelligence-spending bill that included new whistleblower protections for intelligence personnel that are supposed to codify Obama’s 2012 policy directive that strengthened whistleblower laws for federal workers. But the bill comes too late for De Sousa. She is now using the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to clear her name. She says she will aggressively try to pry loose government documents to reveal internal discussions about the Abu Omar rendition, whose case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, there is still an international arrest warrant out for her. That makes traveling to visit her mother and siblings difficult.
CIA operative Sabrina De Sousa, photographed in her home, July 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C., who has been convicted in absentia in Italy of the kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, in Milan in 2003. De Sousa is now speaking out about the incident, which she claims she did not know about, and even if she did, she says she should be given immunity because she was a diplomat.
CIA operative Sabrina De Sousa, photographed in her home in Washington, D.C., in July 2013.
Barbara L. Salisbury / MCT / Landov

She hasn’t given up on trying to hold government officials and her former colleagues accountable. “Castelli’s chain of command who approved the rendition — James Pavitt [former CIA deputy director of operations], Stephen Kappes, [a close confidante of Feinstein who was the agency’s deputy director], Tenet, Drumheller, Rodriguez and Rizzo [former CIA general counsel]. Here are the guys I wish to hold accountable,” she says. “Hayden, Rice, Feinstein and Schakowsky also have to be held accountable for the subsequent cover-up and refusal to investigate an issue that is a violation of international law and torture.”
Zaid says that during one of the oversight committee meetings he attended with De Sousa to discuss the Abu Omar case, she had told congressional staffers that she had been unable to secure a job because of the conviction. “One of the staffers actually told her to go back to India and get a job there,” Zaid says. “Can you believe that?”

Share this post today!