A collection of opinionated commentaries on culture, politics and religion compiled predominantly from an American viewpoint but tempered by a global vision. My Armwood Opinion Youtube Channel @ YouTube I have a Jazz Blog @ Jazz and a Technology Blog @ Technology. I have a Human Rights Blog @ Law
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Armed westerners have been filmed on the front line with rebels near Misrata in the first apparent confirmation that foreign special forces are playing an active role in the Libyan conflict.
Friday, May 27, 2011
More Radical Republican Legislation - Rewriting Wisconsin's concealed gun bill. First, they went union busting. Now, they're endangering lives with a vote that ignores the lesson of the massacre in Tucson. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell explains in the Rewrite.
Netanyahu Muddies Obama's Middle East Policy: What He Gains - TIME
Image via WikipediaNetanyahu Muddies Obama's Middle East Policy: What He Gains - TIME
Of all the petty annoyances, misdemeanors and felonies of public life, there is none that Barack Obama detests more than to have his words twisted or oversimplified. It is a big part of his frustration with the media; it is a bigger part of his disdain for the talk-show wing of the Republican Party. And so it wasn't hard to imagine smoke jetting from the President's ears as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, willfully misinterpreted Obama's statement about the need to renegotiate Israel's borders — in Obama's presence, in the Oval Office on May 20. The President had said that a two-state solution, which Netanyahu alleges to support, should be based on the pre-1967 borders, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that would enable Israel to incorporate the vast majority of its — dare I say — illegal settlements into its territory while giving over equal amounts of Israeli turf to the Palestinians.
(Did Obama's Speech Give Syria's Assad a Breather?)
This is not a groundbreaking proposition. In the arcane world of Middle East peace negotiations, it is the equivalent of saying many Jews and Arabs eat hummus. Indeed, this exact formulation was used by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Hillary Clinton met with Netanyahu on Nov. 11. The swapping of borderlands was at the heart of Bill Clinton's nearly successful attempt to negotiate a peace deal in 2000. It was at the heart of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's nearly successful effort to negotiate peace with the Palestinians in 2008. There are maps circulating that show how such a border might look. The most plausible, one of three versions proposed by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is shown on this page.
But Netanyahu did an astonishing thing: he chose to ignore the part about the land swaps. He also chose to ignore some significant, and rather hard-line, statements of principle that Obama made in his May 19 speech on Middle East policy, reiterating that Israel shouldn't have to negotiate with terrorist groups like Hamas that deny its right to exist; that Israel's security requires a long-term military presence in the Jordan River Valley, eventually leading to a full withdrawal (but setting no timetable for that withdrawal); that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized; and that he would actively oppose any unilateral U.N. effort to declare Palestinian statehood. Instead, in a most condescending manner, Netanyahu chose to lecture the President on a position that he knew Obama hadn't taken — a return to the "indefensible" pre-1967 borders.
Why on earth would Bibi Netanyahu choose to be so boorish and provocative? Because he can be. He has the U.S. Congress in his pocket, a fact made obvious by the applause tsunami that attended his speech to a joint session (and by the fact that an astonishing 68 Senators and 286 Representatives attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee banquet the night before he spoke). He also has a stronger argument this time around. The apparent reconciliation of the Palestinian factions allows Netanyahu to focus on Israel's greatest fear: when push comes to shove, the Palestinians have never really acknowledged Israel's right to exist. The one exception to that rule — Yasser Arafat's signing of the Oslo accords — seems hollow, given the subsequent Palestinian rejection of both the Clinton and Olmert offers. But Netanyahu's offensive also had an important tactical effect: Israel's continued, illegal construction of settlements on Palestinian lands — an impediment to peace every bit as great as the Palestinian refusal to truly acknowledge Israel's existence — took a distinct backseat during the week of dueling speeches. Netanyahu was playing offense so he didn't have to play defense.
Netanyahu knows American politics. The ease and eloquence of his address to Congress were stunning evidence of that. And so he must have been aware of the political impact of his cheesy gambit: he has now, overtly, tossed his support to the Republicans in 2012. Mitt Romney was able to say that Obama had "thrown Israel under the bus." Given his congressional support, Netanyahu may be able to get away with playing so bold a hand — but it is inappropriate behavior for an American ally, and you can bet that Obama won't forget it.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell says We've said it before, we'll say it again. Sarah Palin is the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president ... and she will not run for president.
New Technology Reveals Widespread Mislabeling of Fish - NYTimes.com
New Technology Reveals Widespread Mislabeling of Fish - NYTimes.com
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Scientists aiming their gene sequencers at commercial seafood are discovering rampant labeling fraud in supermarket coolers and restaurant tables: cheap fish is often substituted for expensive fillets, and overfished species are passed off as fish whose numbers are plentiful.
Yellowtail stands in for mahi-mahi. Nile perch is labeled as shark, and tilapia may be the Meryl Streep of seafood, capable of playing almost any role.
Recent studies by researchers in North America and Europe harnessing the new techniques have consistently found that 20 to 25 percent of the seafood products they check are fraudulently identified, fish geneticists say.
Labeling regulation means little if the “grouper” is really catfish or if gulf shrimp were spawned on a farm in Thailand.
Environmentalists, scientists and foodies are complaining that regulators are lax in policing seafood, and have been slow to adopt the latest scientific tools even though they are now readily available and easy to use.
“Customers buying fish have a right to know what the heck it is and where it’s from, but agencies like the F.D.A. are not taking this as seriously as they should,” said Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist of the nonprofit group Oceana, referring to the Food and Drug Administration.
On Wednesday, Oceana released a new report titled “Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health.” With rates of fraud in some species found to run as high as 70 percent, the report concluded, the United States needs to “increase the frequency and scope” of its inspections.
DNA bar coding, as it is called, looks at gene sequences in the fish’s flesh. “The genetics have been revolutionary,” said Stefano Mariani, a marine researcher at University College Dublin, who has published research on the topic. “The DNA bar coding technique is now routine, like processing blood or urine. And we should be doing frequent, random spot checks on seafood like we do on athletes.”
Policing the seafood industry has historically been challenging because even the most experienced fishmongers are hard pressed to distinguish certain steaks or fillets without the benefit of scales or fins. And many arrive in supermarkets frozen and topped with an obscuring sauce.
Older laboratory techniques to identify fish meat looked at the mix of proteins in flesh samples, but were unreliable, expensive and cumbersome. Investigators often relied instead on laborious legwork, tracking inconsistent fish names on paperwork as seafood moved across international borders. Eighty-four percent of seafood consumed in the United States is now imported, often passing through a multistep global supply chain.
With the new genetic techniques, the gene sequence found in a fish sample is compared with an electronic reference library like that maintained by the International Barcode of Life Project, which now covers 8,000 varieties of fish compiled by biologists over the last five years. The testing is now relatively cheap: commercial labs charge about $2,000 for analyzing 100 fish samples, for an average of $20 apiece, but the cost is under $1 per sample for labs that own the equipment.
Douglas Karas, a spokesman for the F.D.A., said in an e-mail that the agency had been working with scientists to “validate” DNA testing for several years. It recently purchased gene sequencing equipment for five F.D.A. field laboratories and hoped to use it “on a routine basis” by the end of this year.
This new type of scrutiny could allow hundreds of thousands of samples to be tested each year, rather than the hundreds that are now rigorously analyzed, said Dr. Paul Hebert, scientific director of the Barcode of Life project, based in Guelph, Ontario. In March, the F.D.A. issued an alert to inspectors about mislabeled fish. It had already used bar coding as irrefutable evidence to prosecute sellers or issue warnings involving seafood “misbranding,” Mr. Karas said, much as prosecutors use DNA evidence in sex crime cases.
But it will take time to clamp down on a lucrative and, apparently, widespread practice. Dale Sims, chief fishmonger for Cleanfish, a San Francisco-based supplier of high-end sustainable seafood, said he’d seen thresher shark labeled as shark, swordfish and mahi-mahi all in the same market, as well as many other obvious substitutions.
“It infuriates me but it’s hard to correct,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to say that there’s been a lot of fragmentation in this industry. So if someone is unscrupulous, it’s been easy to get away with it.”
For consumers, the issue is about dollars and cents — wanting to get the quality and type of fish they paid for. “If you’re ordering steak, you would never be served horse meat,” said Dr. Hirshfield of Oceana. “But you can easily be ordering snapper and get tilapia or Vietnamese catfish.”
Environmentalists worry that duped diners may be unwittingly contributing to declining fish stocks, buying food they have been told to avoid. Dr. Hebert said that in testing samples from the United States and Canada, his lab had even detected meat from endangered sharks being sold to diners. “If it were labeled endangered species,” he said, “you couldn’t sell it and you wouldn’t buy it, right?”
Most of the research has been done not by regulators but by individual fish biologists and geneticists; to date no definitive national study has been carried out on the scope of the fraud.
Dana Miller, a doctoral student who worked with Dr. Mariani in Dublin studying the mislabeling of cod, the most popular fish in Ireland, said, “we expected with all the policies and legislation and inspections, the numbers would be pretty low.” But 25 percent of samples of fresh cod and haddock and over 80 percent of the smoked products, were in fact something else. Irish cod stocks are overfished.
“If you can’t even trust that the name is right, then how can you trust anything else on the package, including the date?” she said. In Europe, seafood labels include the fishery where it was caught. In the United States, it must list only a “country of origin” although that is often the processing country rather than where it is caught.
The group Cleanfish is experimenting with an electronic tagging system through which each fisherman or processor would enter his code onto a tag on each fish, making its journey from the sea to the plate fully transparent. Cleanfish buys only whole fish since its outward appearance helps to verify its identity.
And bar coding is becoming more accessible every year. Today, fish samples are sent to labs for testing, but scientists predict that there will be desktop DNA bar coding systems within five years and, in 10, inspectors will carry hand-held detectors.
“Everyone should be using this technique — there should be spot checks and fines,” said Dr. Hebert of the DNA bar coding project. “If there were no speed traps and radar checks, there would be a lot more speeding.”
- Seafood fraud hurts ocean conservation: report (scientificamerican.com)
- 'Mislabelled fish products' at Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury¿s, Morrisons, Waitrose and Lidl (dailymail.co.uk)
- Here's Why Most Restaurants Lie About Their Tuna Dishes (businessinsider.com)
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Democrat pulls ahead in GOP stronghold - Phil Fairbanks, reporter for The Buffalo News, talks with Rachel Maddow about new polls showing Democrat Kathy Hochul ahead of Republican Jane Corwin in the special election for traditionally Republican NY-26.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Tell the Senators from Big Oil: Stop putting Big Oil profits ahead of the American people.
Tell the Senators from Big Oil: Stop putting Big Oil profits ahead of the American people.
his past week, 48 Senators, including three Democrats and all but two Republicans, put Big Oil before the American people and helped defeat a bill that would have ended tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies.
How could anyone vote against a bill that would have kept $21 billion of American taxpayers' money out of the pockets of cash-rich oil companies?
One big reason is oil money in our political process. A lot of it. Oil and gas companies spent $39.5 million lobbying congress in just the first quarter of this year, and have donated nearly $18 million to the 48 Senators who voted to protect oil subsidies - five times more than to Senators who supported ending them.1
But make no mistake. Even though we didn't get the 60 votes required for passage, our pressure to end oil subsidies is already working. More and more legislators are acting defensive about their support of Big Oil over the American people.
In February, similar legislation to repeal some oil subsidies got only 44 votes. This time, we got 52 votes. That comes after CREDO Action members sent more than 225,000 petitions to the Senate and made more than 1,000 calls yesterday to 11 key Senators, six of whom flipped their position and voted to end tax breaks to Big Oil.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said that despite this defeat, he will continue to push for ending oil subsides as part of negotiations on the budget and to raise the debt ceiling.2
We need to keep the pressure on. And one key to breaking Big Oil's grasp on our legislators is letting Congress know that we know about the millions of dollars that Big Oil has given them.
Let's make sure that our Senators' votes to protect oil company profits don't go unanswered by those of us who actually pay the price.
1. "Senators Opposing End of Oil Subsidies Received Five Times More in Big Oil Campaign Cash," Oil Change International, May 17, 2011
2. "Senate rejects bill to cut oil tax breaks," The Hill, May 17, 2011
Here are the 48 Senators who voted against ending Big Oil subsidies: Alexander (R-TN), Ayotte (R-NH), Barrasso (R-WY), Begich (D-AK), Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Brown (R-MA), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coats (R-IN), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), Hoeven (R-ND), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Johnson (R-WI), Kirk (R-IL), Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA), Lee (R-UT), Lugar (R-IN), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Nelson (D-NE), Paul (R-KY), Portman (R-OH), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Rubio (R-FL), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Thune (R-SD), Toomey (R-PA), Vitter (R-LA), Wicker (R-MS)
- Big Oil Profits $32 Billion in 3 Months! (davidjgregory.wordpress.com)
- Senate blocks bill repealing $2B in oil tax breaks (ajc.com)
Friday, May 20, 2011
Obama Calls for Mideast Peace Deal Based on Israel’s Pre-1967 Borders - NYTimes.com
Obama Calls for Mideast Peace Deal Based on Israel’s Pre-1967 Borders - NYTimes.com
By MARK LANDLER and STEVEN LEE MYERS
WASHINGTON — President Obama, seeking to capture a moment of epochal change in the Arab world, began a new effort on Thursday to break the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, setting out a new starting point for negotiations on the region’s most intractable problem.
A day before the arrival in Washington of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr. Obama declared that the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — adjusted to some degree to account for Israeli settlements in the West Bank — should be the basis of a deal. While the 1967 borders have long been viewed as the foundation for a peace agreement, Mr. Obama’s formula of land swaps to compensate for disputed territory created a new benchmark for a diplomatic solution.
Mr. Obama’s statement represented a subtle, but significant shift, in American policy. And it thrust him back into the region’s most nettlesome dispute at a time when conditions would seem to make reaching a deal especially difficult.
The Israeli government immediately protested, saying that for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders would leave it “indefensible.” Mr. Netanyahu held an angry phone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday before the speech, officials said, in which he demanded that the president’s reference to 1967 borders be cut.
Israeli officials continued to lobby the administration until right before Mr. Obama arrived at the State Department for the address. White House officials said he did not alter anything under Israeli pressure, though the president made changes in the text that delayed his appearance by 35 minutes.
Mr. Obama’s reference to Israel’s borders came toward the end of a somber, 45-minute address that sought to articulate an overarching framework for the disparate American responses to the Arab Spring, which has taken a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt has given way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen.
The president offered a blunt critique of Arab governments and, without promising any changes in policy to confront repressive ones more aggressively, sought to assure protesters that they were squarely aligned with democratic American values in a region where the strategic interests of the United States have routinely trumped its values.
Those issues are delicate enough, but the diplomatic row with Israel highlighted the acute sensitivities that Mr. Obama faces as he seeks to link the changes in the Middle East with the conflict at the region’s heart.
“At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever,” he said.
At one level, by putting the United States on record as supporting the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, Mr. Obama was simply endorsing reality: Middle East analysts say a new state would inevitably be drawn on the basis of Israel’s boundaries before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which created the contours of today’s Middle East.
Israel’s victory over Egypt and other Arab neighbors in that war expanded its control over territory in the West Bank and Gaza inhabited by millions of Palestinians, creating a greater Israel — including all of the capital, Jerusalem — but one that oversees a resentful occupied population.
Mr. Obama also noted that Israel and the Palestinians would have to swap territory on either side of that border to account for large Jewish settlements that have taken root in the West Bank since 1967.
But the shift moves the United States a step closer to the position of the Palestinians, and is viewed as vital to them because it means the Americans implicitly back their view that new Israeli settlement construction will have to be reversed, or compensated for, in talks over the borders for a new Palestinian state.
Some analysts said Mr. Obama’s shift was less strategic than tactical, seeking to lure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, as a way of heading off their campaign to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“He’s moving into a crisis-management mode, laying out principles to preserve the two-state solution and to prevent a U.N. resolution on a Palestinian state,” said Martin S. Indyk, the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.
Mr. Obama expressed opposition to the Palestinian statehood effort, saying, “Symbolic efforts to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.”
He also made several other gestures to Mr. Netanyahu, highlighting the security threats to Israel. Mr. Obama’s reference to a “nonmilitarized” Palestinian state is likely to dismay Palestinians, who have long said that such matters should be decided in negotiations. The president also said that the recent unity agreement between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, raised “profound and legitimate questions for Israel.”
“How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” he said, referring to Hamas, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization. “In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
Mr. Obama’s emphasis on territory and security seemed calculated to segregate the issues on which the United States believes the Israelis and Palestinians can bargain. He said they should leave aside for now more deeply emotional questions like the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, which he suggested could be dealt with after border and security issues.
But Mr. Obama spoke with palpable frustration that his peacemaking efforts so far had failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said to an audience that included George J. Mitchell, who was his special envoy to the Middle East until resigning last week.
Beyond the stalled peace process, Mr. Obama celebrated “a moment of opportunity” after six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. Mr. Obama bluntly warned President Bashar al-Assad of Syria that he would face increasing isolation if he did not respond to demands for a transition to democracy.
“President Assad now has a choice,” Mr. Obama said. “He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”
He was no less blunt in the case of Bahrain, a close ally that has brutally cracked down on protests there.
“The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail,” he said in one of the few phrases that drew applause from an audience that included diplomats from a dozen Arab countries.
While he conceded that the United States had not been a central actor in the uprisings, he sought to cast America’s role in a new context now that the war in Iraq is winding down and Osama bin Laden has been killed. In such a world, Mr. Obama said, strategic interests must not trump values.
“We must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind,” Mr. Obama said.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Robert Gates On Pakistan: 'Somebody Knew' Osama Bin Laden Was Hiding There
Robert Gates On Pakistan: 'Somebody Knew' Osama Bin Laden Was Hiding There
WASHINGTON — Pakistan has already paid dearly for its failure to know or acknowledge that Osama bin Laden was hiding for more than five years in a compound a short distance from a Pakistani military facility, Pentagon leaders insisted Wednesday.
Pushing back against angry public and congressional accusations that Pakistani officials were complicit in bin Laden's sanctuary there, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he's seen proof that leaders there were unaware of bin Laden's whereabouts.
"I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I've seen some evidence to the contrary," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. "We have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is, somebody knew."
He wouldn't say who, but suggested it could have been retired or low-level Pakistani officials.
The Obama administration is reassessing its fragile and sometimes hostile relationship with Pakistan after the bin Laden killing, which may change the stakes for both sides. For the U.S., it may provide greater leverage in its argument to prod Pakistan to go after the militants that target the U.S., instead of only those that target Pakistan.
For Pakistan, outrage and shame over what is seen as a breach of national sovereignty will color leaders' willingness to cooperate with the U.S.
Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen issued a broad defense of Islamabad's leadership Wednesday. And they urged patience as the "humiliated" country worked through the problems emanating from the U.S. clandestine raid deep into Pakistan that killed bin Laden on May 2.
"If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I've already paid a price. I've been humiliated. I've been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity," said Gates. "I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid."
That argument, however, may hold no sway on Capitol Hill, which has seen more than $10 billion in aid go to Pakistan over the past 10 years.
If a U.S. aid package to Pakistan came up for a vote in at least one Senate Appropriations subcommittee, "it would not pass at all. I don't know how I would vote on the issue," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid.
The comments came as the Pakistani Taliban vowed to fight with "new zeal" in the wake of bin Laden's death to complete the al-Qaida chief's mission of waging holy war against the West, the deputy commander of the militant group told The Associated Press.
Waliur Rehman's remarks appeared designed to deflate expectations that bin Laden's death would slow down insurgent groups allied with or inspired by al-Qaida. And it also could be an attempt to boost morale among the insurgents who are facing a tough fight against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Gates and Mullen said the Pakistanis are well aware of the swelling frustration in Washington. And they've heard the demands that Islamabad pay a price for its inability or unwillingness to more aggressively target insurgents that are planning and waging attacks against U.S. and coalition troops across the border in Afghanistan.
"I don't think we should underestimate the humbling experience that this (has been) and in fact the internal soul searching that's going on" inside Pakistan's military, said Mullen.
Mullen has forged a close relationship with his Pakistani counterparts, encouraging them to move against high-level terrorists known to be hiding in Pakistan, including al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, and kingpins of the Afghan insurgency such as Mullah Omar and Siraj Haqqani.
Pakistan's continued support is critical for the continued passage of supplies into Afghanistan, as well as its sporadic military operations in some of the insurgent strongholds such as South Waziristan and the Swat Valley.
Mullen said the U.S. must continue to work with and provide aid to Pakistan. But, amid rising anger and distrust of Pakistan across America and on Capitol Hill, both men acknowledged that Islamabad must take concrete action to eliminate the safe havens where militants are hiding along the border with Afghanistan.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said as lawmakers are under pressure to cut all U.S. spending, he suggested establishing a "set of benchmarks" for Pakistan to meet, such as going after the Haqqani network, border security and focusing on North Waziristan.
While he cautioned against a rush to cut aid to Pakistan, he noted that the U.S. set similar types of benchmarks as it prepared to withdraw troops from Iraq.
In other comments, both Gates and Mullen complained that too much information has been disclosed about the raid by the elite U.S. SEAL team that stormed the compound in Abbottabad and killed bin Laden and four others.
"We are close to jeopardizing this precious capability that we have, and we can't afford to do that," said Mullen. "This fight isn't over."
He and Gates said that former and current U.S. officials have spilled too many details of the operation, risking the security of the special operations forces involved and their families. "It's time to stop talking," he said.
In a separate development Wednesday, a new report by the Asia Society said that the U.S. and other allies must make a long-term commitment to Pakistan in order to prevent the country from further deterioration. It called for assistance to improve the country's failing education system, reform its weak judicial system and end its conflict with India.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Joan Walsh of Salon.com and Michael Eric Dyson talk about Newt Gingrich’s racially tinged language about President Barack Obama.
Donald Trump's Fake Presidential Campaign Ends, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell's says "Well, it's May 16th. What can I say.. I told You So!"
Lawrence O’Donnell Accurately Predicted Racist Donald Trump's Fake Presidential Campaign Would End May 16, 2011. Watch This!
Huckabee opts out of 2012 run - The real candidates begin to emerge in the 2012 presidential race, after two fake ones officially bow out. Msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell discusses the narrowing Republican field with The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Jon Stewart Slams Democrats For Allowing Bush Admin To Steal Credit For bin Laden
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Reid To Boehner: If You Want $2 Trillion In Cuts, Start With Oil And Gas Tax Breaks
Image via WikipediaReid To Boehner: If You Want $2 Trillion In Cuts, Start With Oil And Gas Tax Breaks
We will if Boehner means what he said here. Somehow I doubt iy.
John H. Armwood
WASHINGTON -- Less than a day after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) demanded that the debt ceiling not be lifted unless the government reduce spending by $2 trillion, Democrats are calling his bluff.
Senate Democratic leadership is asking Boehner to reaffirm support for ending tax breaks to five of the top oil companies as part of his quest to achieve federal savings.
“You can't talk about cuts without first looking at eliminating the giveaways to big oil. It should start there,” Jon Summers, a top spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said in a statement. “We agree we have to cut spending, but it is ridiculous for Republicans to push a plan to kill Medicare while trying to defend taxpayer handouts to big oil companies that are making record profits. They don't need the money. If Republicans are serious about cutting spending, they'll support our plan to eliminate welfare for Big Oil so we can apply that money toward the deficit.”
Summer’s retort comes just hours after Boehner upped the stakes over the debt ceiling debate: He told a Wall Street crowd that his caucus would not sign off on raising the limit -- which stands at $14.3 trillion -- unless it was attached to strict spending reductions. Tax increases, he added, are off the table.
“Without significant spending cuts and changes in the way we spend the American people’s money, there will be no increase in the debt limit. And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in the debt limit that the president is given,” Boehner said in an address to the Economic Club of New York. The timeframe for the cuts would be longer than the life of the debt limit increase, meaning that it would be implemented over the course of, likely, several years.
The natural response would be to ask Boehner to actually pinpoint the cuts that he wants. But Senate Democrats are choosing a slightly different tact: proposing their own deficit reduction measures and daring Republicans to object.
Repealing oil company tax breaks is something that Boehner briefly said he would considered supporting before cautioning that he wouldn’t back a policy that could hurt domestic suppliers. Democrats responded by tailoring the proposal so that it hit just the top five companies. Ending their breaks could save the government $21 billion over ten years.
It's a non-starter for Boehner, who sees ending a subsidy as a tax hike.
"Our goal is to increase the supply of American energy to lower costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create American jobs," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "This tax hike would make prices at the pump even higher. That simply doesn't make any sense."
A formal bill is expected to be introduced today with a vote likely to happen early next week, according to a Senate leadership aide.
In the meantime, the Democratic caucus has been given its talking points.
“We have our message today, which is oil,” said the aide. “If [Republicans] are going to have these unspecified targets, ok. But if the goal is to cut trillions, why not start with the oil and gas subsidies?”
We will if Boehner means what he said here. Somehow I doubt iy.
John H. Armwood
- Speaker Boehner: Tax hikes are 'off the table' (ajc.com)
- Democrats play offense on oil subsidies (maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Boehner gas gaffe creates opening (politico.com)
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Sympathy For Al-Qaida In Pakistani Intelligence? : NPR
Sympathy For Al-Qaida In Pakistani Intelligence? : NPR
The Pakistani intelligence service had to know about Osama bin Laden's presence in the country, says Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani writer based in Islamabad. While he doubts there was an official policy of complicity, Gul says he suspects there was sympathy for al-Qaida in the rank-and-file.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Friday, May 06, 2011
US officials: Al-Qaida had trains in its sights - Documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal that al-Qaida was considering an attack on trains in the United States, timed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. NBC’s Ann Curry reports.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Rachel Maddow Discusses Lawrence O’Donnell’s Interview With Condoleezza Rice Arguably The Worst National Security Advisor In Modern Times
Lawrence O'Donnell - The Condoleezza Rice Interview Rice Defends Contentiously The Policies Of The Bush Administration Despite Their Obvious Mistakes!
Condoleezza Rice, like her former boss G.W. Bush is a lying hypocrite. She repeatedly lied during this interview. When Bush ordered the Iraq war Saddam Hussein's mass murders of Iraqi citizens were long over. Those murder had occurred nearly a decade before when Bush's father encouraged the Kurds to rebel in the North then he let them be slaughtered.
As a result of the policies put in place by her administration over 100,000 Iraqi civilians were senselessly killed. There was a no fly zone over the areas that Hussein had attacked before in is country.
Rice was trying to muddy the water with distortions and falsehoods which has been her pattern. Remember she is the one who said that the Clinton administration had not warned the incoming Bush administration about the fact that they considered Al Qaeda to be America's greatest threat. Richard Clarke proved that lie. He had written a memo which was on ju that very topic and sent it to Condi Rice. Bob Woodward verified the fact that Rice had lied in his book Bust At War. Rice is and always has been a sleazy, dishonest person. Here is a copy of the memo proving her dishonesty.
Who is WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning? - The Washington Post
Who is WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning? - The Washington Post
By Ellen Nakashima, Sunday, May , 11:23 AM
In January 2010, more than 130 people gathered to celebrate the opening of Room B-28, a “hacker space” in the basement of the computer science building at Boston University. The room had two rows of computers running open-source software, and, in conformity to the hacker ethic, its walls were painted with wildly colored murals, extensions of the free expression to be practiced there. That was the reason for the power tools, too — in case someone wanted to build something amazing and beautiful, such as the musical staircase, under construction now, that chimes when you step on it.
One of the visitors was a young Army specialist named Bradley Manning, on leave from duty in Iraq. He had been working with computers, modifying code, since he was a kid. David House, founder of the hacker space, said he immediately sensed that Manning “was in the community,” someone who understood how technology could be empowering. This was the sort of world Manning hoped to inhabit one day, friends said. He had joined the Army so the GI Bill would finance his education. He had his eye on a PhD in physics.
Days later, he would be on a plane back to Baghdad and a culture where rule-breaking was not celebrated. And eight months after that, House — who had chatted with the man for barely 15 minutes — went to visit him in the brig at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where Manning was being held as the prime suspect inthe largest national security leak in U.S. history.
He is accused of violating military computer security and leaking classified information to the insurgent Web site WikiLeaks. He faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy,” a capital crime. The material includes a video of an Apache helicopter firing on civilians in Baghdad, daily field reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a quarter-million cables from U.S. diplomats around the world. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the cable leaks “an attack on America’s foreign policy interests.”
For most of the past year, Manning spent 23 hours a day alone in a 6-by-12-foot jail cell. His case has become a rallying point for free-information activists, who say the leaked information belongs to the American people. They compare the 23-year-old former intelligence analyst to Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers, and decry excessive government secrecy. “What is happening to our government when Bradley Manning is charged with aiding the enemy?” asked Pete Perry, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Who is the enemy? Information? The American people?”
The case raises troubling issues. Placing information in the public domain has never before been construed as aiding the enemy. Manning had a history of emotional outbursts throughout his youth, and they continued during his Army service, culminating in a breakdown in Baghdad.
How did a young man of such promise wind up in a brig? And how was he in a position to potentially access sensitive material given what the Army knew — or should have known — about him? Who is Bradley Manning, and what made him the way he is?
Manning’s path to jail began in a one-stoplight Oklahoma town so pious he liked to quip that it had “more pews than people.” There are a dozen churches in Crescent’s one square mile, and its pastures are dotted with oil derricks and bales of hay.
Manning’s parents — a young Navy veteran skilled in computer programming and his Welsh wife — moved to Oklahoma from California in 1983 with their 7-year-old daughter, Casey. Brian Manning had married Susan Fox the day after his 21st birthday in Wales, where he had been stationed.
The couple had tried for years to have another child, so Bradley’s arrival exactly 11 years after his sister’s was an occasion. His early years, spent in Arizona and Oklahoma, were happy ones. The girl was crazy for her little brother, bounced him on her knees as he “laughed and laughed.” His mother noticed that even as a 6-month-old, Bradley was fascinated by the computer. “He would sit with his father and just peck, peck, peck” at the keyboard, she said in an interview during a trip to see her son at Quantico.
The family lived in a neatly kept two-story house on five acres on an isolated dirt road several miles outside Crescent, where they had what Casey calls a “hobby farm.” There were two horses, a cow, pigs and chickens, a large vegetable garden and a pond stocked with perch. Susan was a homemaker and expert knitter who worked odd jobs but never learned to drive. She was a doting, even indulgent mother who let Bradley cover the entire second-story floor with his Lego creations.
Bradley was like a “hummingbird,” said his aunt, Debra Manning. “Always moving fast, taking a short rest, then back in motion again.” He’d talk just as quickly, his words tumbling over his thoughts.
When Bradley was no more than 7 or 8, Brian brought home a computer programming book and introduced his son to the C++ programming language. Much later, his dad helped him build a computer. “He loved anything electronic,” recalled a family friend, Mary Egelston.
His outstanding intellect was apparent early in school. He earned straight A’s and studied in advanced classes along with Jordan Davis, his oldest friend, now living in a suburb of Oklahoma City. Though Bradley played the sax and both boys were on a youth basketball team, Davis said, “he was a pretty big nerd, and so was I.”
“Extremely bright,” said one of his teachers, with a “vocabulary, a depth of knowledge that most fifth-graders didn’t have.” He won top prize in the science fair three years in a row.
Bradley was also a wisecracker who was not shy about expressing his opinions — even to teachers, whom he sometimes corrected. The other children would say, “Oh, Bradley, he always thinks he knows everything,” recalled Egelston, who used to be a substitute teacher. “Well, Bradley, little munchkin that he is, he would stand up for what he believes.”
Even in elementary school, Bradley showed an interest in the world. He would argue that the United States had a right to assert its military power overseas to protect its interests, Davis said. Former classmate Chera Moore admired his outspokenness. “He was just the most intelligent boy I’ve ever met,” she said.
In sixth grade, Bradley became the first student from Crescent to win a statewide academic meet. When he went on stage to collect his trophy in Oklahoma City, his parents were not there. Indeed, Brian and Susan Manning did not take an active interest in Bradley’s schooling or grades, even skipping parent-teacher conferences. “[Kids are] the ones that have to grow up,” Susan Manning said in explanation. “Nobody else is going to do it for you.”
Other parents looked out for him. When Bradley and his friend Paden Radford went to academic meets in other towns, Paden’s mother, Jacqueline Radford, said she “always made sure Paden had enough money to pay extra if Bradley didn’t have any. The teacher would sometimes pitch in. That’s what we do around here.” One summer, Bradley went on an East Coast school bus trip with Paden’s father acting as his chaperone. It was evident that Bradley was “trying to find out where he fit in the world,” Mark Radford said.
He did a lot of that searching on his own. Brian Manning, who worked in information technology for Hertz, took business trips to Europe for five or six weeks at a time, Susan recalled. “Come home on a Saturday, then sleep on Sunday, go back to work on Monday and leave on another trip on Friday,” she said.
The absences strained Bradley’s relationship with his father, family members said. And when Brian was home, he was, one relative said, “far too strict” — in contrast to a mother who was “far too soft.”
Bradley was “afraid of his dad,” Davis said. He recalled how Bradley once told him that “he had to hide out in a tree” or that “his dad was going at him with a belt.” Once, when Bradley was in the second grade or so, his father gave him a spanking so severe that the next day at school, he told his teacher he could not sit down, his mother and sister said. His father was also “abusive with words,” Susan Manning said.
(Brian Manning did not respond to requests for interviews.)
Bradley’s mother had drunk for years, but, she said, her habit grew worse in Crescent, where the family lived in relative isolation. She added vodka to her morning tea and rum to her afternoon Coke. “She just basically drank once she got up and till she went to bed,” Casey said. Susan said she was having problems in her marriage and turned to the bottle for solace. She admitted the drinking affected her children: “I wasn’t just hurting myself. I know that. But you don’t think that at the time. You get so down that you don’t care.”
The children learned early to be self-reliant. By age 6, Bradley could dress himself and get his own breakfast cereal. When Brian traveled, he would leave envelopes containing pre-written checks, and Casey would mail them. Her mother, she said, never learned how to write a check.
Bradley also began acting out. On a family trip to Florida when he was 9 or 10, one of his cousins touched his laptop, inadvertently clearing the screen. Angered, Bradley hurled an ironing board across the rented villa, recalled his aunt Sharon Staples. Moore, his former classmate, said that if someone crossed him, “he’d pick up a book or notebook and slam it on his desk, or his face would turn bright red.”
But on his computer, Bradley could transcend life in his small Midwestern town. “He was always thinking outside Crescent, Oklahoma,” Paden Radford said. “He was always a step ahead of most people.” By middle school, Bradley was altering lines of code to transform a computer-game character’s appearance, just for fun. “I don’t know too many 13-year-olds who can re-skin a model,” Davis said.
Playing computer games, Bradley discovered the world of ideas. The game Call to Power II, for instance, prompted him and Davis to discuss using technology to achieve democracy. It was during one of those discussions that Bradley mentioned the concept that “information wants to be free,” which had become a tenet of the hacker community. “Bradley was interested in hacking — not in doing it, but in theory,” Davis said.
Susan and Brian’s troubles escalated, and by the fall of 1999, Brian had moved out. The divorce in 2000, Egelston recalled, “rocked their world.” It was especially hard on young Bradley, who moved with his mother to a smaller, rented house in town. Casey was by now in college.
That same year, his father remarried, and the new wife’s son changed his name to Manning. One afternoon in 2001, Bradley came home devastated after a visit to his father, Susan Manning recalled. He felt replaced by his stepbrother, Dustin. Bradley began literally climbing the wall in frustration — taking two or three steps, running up the wall, then hopping off, over and over. She called Egelston and asked her to intercede. Egelston finally got him to his room and sat him down. He was “just totally frustrated,” Egelston recalled. He blurted out: “Nobody understands!” He confessed his sense of rejection to his mother. “I’m nobody now, Mom,” he said.
Bradley was now an adolescent, coming into his sexual awakening. The summer he was 13, he confided to Davis and another friend that he had a crush on a boy. “It was, I guess, me,” Davis said. “I was flattered. It was a little bit awkward.” Bradley came out to his mother, very matter-of-factly, at the dining room table about the same time. She remembers telling him it was “okay with me, but try not to tell other people — especially your dad.”
Bradley did not speak openly of the turmoil at home. Besides, big things were happening in the world, and even as a 13-year-old, he was keenly aware of current events. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Bradley and Jordan Davis saw the footage of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. “Oh, man, this is unbelievable,” Davis recalled them saying. The boys felt that they were alone in their class in seeing the “game-changing” nature of the attack. “This was going to be by far the biggest event of this decade and maybe the next, probably one of the biggest events of this new century.”
It was amid this turbulence that Manning’s mother decided to return to Wales, and in November, Bradley announced to surprised friends and teachers that he was leaving. They flew from Washington on Thanksgiving Day after spending a few nights in Potomac with Bradley’s Aunt Debbi, Brian’s older sister. Bradley, by now the man of the family, had made the airline reservations online himself.
They settled into a three-bedroom apartment in Haverfordwest, Wales, near his mother’s family. Though Bradley made a few friends, he spent a lot of time in his room playing games and listening to music on his computers.
Wales was not an easy fit. “All the things he knew — politically, culturally, all his comfort zone — were all of a sudden gone,” said his uncle Joseph Staples.
Kids picked on him. “Some days, he was relieved to get home from school,” said his aunt Sharon Staples. “He’d run. He never walked.” Once on a camping trip with friends, she said, “he woke up, and all the tents around him were gone. They left while he was sleeping.”
His mother’s drinking continued to be a concern to the boy, and he told relatives he was afraid she would die. When he graduated from high school in 2005, he returned to Oklahoma, where his father had offered to get him a job in technology.
Bradley moved in with Brian, his second wife (also named Susan) and her son, who was about Bradley’s age. They lived in a ranch-style house in Oklahoma City, where Bradley, now 17, began work at a software start-up, Zoto Inc.With its Macs, white boards and robots tooling around, Zoto appealed to Bradley’s tech sensibilities. The young man certainly had aptitude, recalled Zoto co-founder Kord Campbell. He was also politically switched-on, intelligent beyond his years. “Here I was a grown man, and he could run circles around me” talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, Campbell said.
Bradley showed a political consciousness about the Iraq war. “He didn’t like that people were being killed, particularly the citizens, innocent people,” Campbell said. “I remember us specifically talking about how we were having a hard time getting information on how many people were being killed.”
The youth confided in Campbell about his home life, expressing frustration with his mother — “ ‘I felt like I was the parent with her’ ” — and his stepmother — “ ‘My stepmom hates me.’ ” Campbell came to the conclusion that “nobody’s been taking care of this kid for a really long time.”
As they grew closer, Campbell began to notice worrisome incidents. There were moments when Bradley would just “sit there and stare,” he said. Once, when Campbell was teaching Bradley to drive, Bradley failed to brake as he approached a stop sign. When Campbell spoke up, Bradley stopped the car but then “just locked up,” Campbell said. “I had to put on the emergency brakes, get out, walk around the car, open the door and touch him before he finally snapped out of it.”
The odd behavior became more frequent, Campbell said, and he suspected drug use. Manning had trouble focusing on work, and it became increasingly difficult to communicate with him, Campbell said. Finally, he told Bradley he needed to deal with his problems and fired him. He was sorry, he said, but he had a business to run.
At home, Bradley and his stepmother fought over money, over his smoking, over his leaving empty Dr Pepper cans under his bed. In March 2006, the two got into such a row that Susan called 911, saying Bradley had threatened her with a knife. Her husband had fallen while trying to protect her, she told the dispatcher.
In the tape of the call, an angry Susan can be heard screaming at Brad: “Get away from him! You get away from him!” In the background, a concerned Bradley asks his father, “Are you okay?”
Susan told the dispatcher that Bradley was upset “because I have been telling him he needs to get a job, and he won’t get a job.”
In the audio, she lays down an ultimatum to his father: “You better find somewhere for him to go, because he ain’t staying here.” (In March of this year, Brian Manning filed for divorce.)
So Bradley took the old red Nissan pickup his dad had given him and hit the road.
In July 2006, Bradley’s aunt in Potomac received a call from her former sister-in-law in Wales. Bradley was in Chicago, broke and living out of his truck in someone’s driveway. Could Debbi help?
Debra Manning called Bradley on his cellphone and offered to wire him money. She also offered him a temporary place to stay. About 30 hours later, Bradley showed up at her house. He had driven almost 700 miles in one day.
Thus began a 15-month interlude in the Washington area that would be one of the most tranquil in Bradley’s life. He found a job at Abercrombie & Fitch, then a better one at Starbucks. With his uncle’s help, he enrolled in Montgomery College, in the hope that it might be a steppingstone to the University of Maryland. After one semester in which he failed an exam, he dropped out and never returned.
Still, he seemed productive and more or less happy. “He was extremely organized, extremely tidy,” his aunt said. “This was not somebody who was flailing around.” So she was stunned when, over dinner at the now-gone Broadway Diner in Rockville, Bradley announced that he had enlisted in the Army and would be leaving in a week or so. To her concerned questions, he replied that service would allow him to go to college.
Debra would later learn that it was her brother who encouraged Bradley to enlist because, he said, it would give structure to his son’s life. “Twisted his arm,” was how Brian Manning put it to a PBS “Frontline” correspondent.
In October 2007, Pvt. Manning reported for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. “He really didn’t like a lot of the people,” said a friend in Washington. “They weren’t very nice to him.” At 5-foot-2, “he was the smallest guy in the group. There are two types of small guys: the guys, who, if you mess around with them, they break your arm. And then there are the type who just take it. And he just took it.”
Despite his struggles, Manning was excited about his future in Army intelligence, a field that suited his analytical mind. “It’s going to be a different crowd when I get through with basic,” he told the friend. “I’m going to be with people more like me.”
He enjoyed classes at the Fort Huachuca, Ariz., intelligence school, where he received a top-secret security clearance, graduated and joined the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.
It was here, constrained by the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, that he began speaking out anonymously about gay rights. He attended a rally in Syracuse and noted on Facebook that he had gotten an “anonymous mention” in an article. The reporter wrote of a gay soldier who complained he was “living a double life. ... I can’t make a statement. I can’t be caught in an act.”
Manning now had a love interest: Tyler Watkins, a freshman interested in neuroscience at Brandeis University who was an active member of Triskelion, the Brandeis club for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. Manning began to make weekend visits to Watkins’s dorm at the tranquil, wooded campus west of Boston. On his Facebook page, Watkins declared that he was “totally in love with Bradley Edward Manning!!!!!!!”
The trips to Boston exposed Manning to new friends and a vibrant tech community. A friend named Danny Clark introduced him to Pika House, a rambling, cooperative-style clapboard house near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose residents — mostly students — practiced creative chaos: tacking circuit boards to the ceiling, hanging a traffic signal upside down from the porch.
Clark, who runs a small software firm, provided a sympathetic ear to Manning’s Army and family woes. “He always seemed in control. Even when he was in desperate situations, he came up with inventive ways to be as fine as possible. ... I was part of the world he hoped to join after he got out of the Army,” Clark said.
Manning was not adapting well to the military culture. He clashed with a roommate he thought was anti-gay and one he thought was racist, according to a friend. He quarreled with other soldiers and pushed some chairs in anger. By August 2009, a supervisor, Master Sgt. Paul D. Adkins, noted that he was showing signs of “instability” and required him to seek mental health counseling, according to an Army report. Manning received an initial screening but no regular therapy, the report said. Because he could not discuss his romantic relationship with an Army therapist, Manning on his own saw a civilian counselor off the base.
Adkins and a major discussed leaving Manning behind when the unit deployed to Iraq in the fall, “as I felt he was a risk to himself and possibly others,” Adkins said in a statement. But the Army was short on intelligence analysts in Iraq. Manning was clearly bright and his behavior had started to improve, so his superiors decided to send him.
At the same time, Manning tried to reassure his family he would be okay. He told his aunt he was eager to use his training in a war zone. He told his sister not to worry because he would be “in an air-conditioned trailer behind the front line.”
On one of his last visits to Boston, Manning told Keith Rose, a friend he had met at Brandeis, of his misgivings about Iraq because of what he was learning as an intelligence analyst. “He expressed a feeling to me like how messed up the situation is,” Rose said. “He said things like, ‘If more people knew what was going on over there, they would not support the war.’ ”
In Baghdad, Manning worked in a drab warehouse-like building called a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF. His job at Forward Operating Base Hammer was to detect threats in locally gathered information to keep troops out of danger. He told friends he enjoyed the intellectual challenge.
He also confided that his supervisor “completely knew [he was gay] and had no problem with it as long as he did his job properly,” Rose said. A few others knew, too, Manning told Clark, but in deference to the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, he limited his gay signals to small things that wouldn’t get him tossed out of the Army. He kept a fairy wand on his desk and used an online account password of TWinkl.
Three months into his Baghdad assignment, by now promoted a rank, Manning had a two-week leave and flew back to the States to see his relatives in Potomac and his boyfriend in Boston. He also saw Clark, who took him to the hacker space open house at Boston University, a high point of his leave.
During the visit, according to Wired.com, which interviewed Watkins, Manning confided to his boyfriend that he had “gotten his hands on” sensitive information and was considering passing it to WikiLeaks. Since the Wired story, Watkins has not spoken to the media and did not return phone calls for this article. (After Manning’s arrest, federal investigators swooped into Boston looking for leads on WikiLeaks among Manning’s friends in the tech community, which one called a chilling experience.)
The lovers were not getting along. One evening, they went to a Triskelion meeting, and Rose said he noticed Manning sitting dejectedly in a corner. “He came home expecting some kind of homecoming, to be embraced. Instead, he’d been ignored.”
Shortly after Manning returned to Baghdad in February, WikiLeaks began posting documents that appeared to have been leaked from inside the U.S. government. They included an Army counterintelligence report warning of the risk of leaks from within the Army to WikiLeaks.
Founded in late 2006 by a peripatetic Australian and former hacker named Julian Assange, the site was conceived as an “uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking,” with servers peppered throughout the world. By early 2010, it had earned some ink for posting the “Climate-gate” e-mails from a British university and Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo e-mails.
But it was the April 2010 posting of a 2007 video shot from a U.S. Army helicopter hovering over the streets of Baghdad that put WikiLeaks on the map. The action is viewed through the crosshairs of an Apache gunship, as unseen shooters take aim at suspected insurgents, saying, “Light ’em all up. Come on, fire!” The gunfire killed about a dozen people, including two Reuters employees — a driver and a photographer, whose lens had been mistaken for a weapon. WikiLeaks dubbed the piece “Collateral Murder.”
Not long after, Manning e-mailed friends a link to the video, urging them to check it out. According to Wired.com, Manning messaged Watkins, asking, “Are people talking about it? ... That was one of his major concerns, that once he had done this, was it really going to make a difference? ... He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again.”
The same month the video appeared, Manning began to exhibit “bizarre behavior” at work, including showing “blank stares when spoken to” and stopping in mid-sentence, according to Master Sgt. Adkins in a memorandum written for an investigation into whether any supervisors should be punished for failing to properly discipline Manning and for failing to run a secure SCIF. The following sequence of events is taken from that report, portions of which were read to The Post.
Manning’s strange behavior increased in “frequency and intensity” and gave “an impression of disrespect and disinterest” to his superiors. Adkins sent Manning not to a therapist but to a chaplain.
On May 7, Manning left his work area about 6:30 p.m. and was found an hour later “sitting on the floor in a fetal position in a storage room.” It appeared as though he had been cutting open a vinyl chair. Etched in the chair were the words “I want.” A Gerber army knife lay at his feet.
Later that evening, having returned to his shift, he struck a female soldier in the face. He would later say he had no intention of hitting her and had no idea why he did.
The brigade psychiatrist, Capt. Edan Critchfield, diagnosed an “occupational problem and adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct.” Two sources familiar with the case said Manning’s adjustment disorder was related to “gender identity.” The psychiatrist recommended that Manning be discharged. The bolt was removed from his weapon, and he was reassigned to work in the supply room.
A day later, Capt. Matthew Freeburg decided to suspend Manning’s top-secret security clearance but never processed the paperwork. On May 24, Manning was demoted to private first class because of the assault.
Adkins, Critchfield and Freeburg all declined to comment for this story.
With his military career disintegrating, Manning turned to cyberspace. On May 9, he sent a Facebook message to a novelist in Minneapolis he had never met, wondering if he could speak to him “in confidence, sometime in the next year or so?”
Jonathan Odell, who is gay and writes about race and culture in the American South, said he was intrigued when Manning wrote that he had been involved in some “ ‘very high-profile events,’ albeit as a nameless individual thus far.”
Odell perused Manning’s Facebook wall. Manning again linked to an interview he gave anonymously, this time telling the Washington Blade (in an April 1, 2010, piece) that even though he was stressed because of the military’s gay policy, he had to “dodge” questions about sexuality in therapy sessions.
Odell said he thought the soldier “was reaching out for someone to tell his story” and messaged back that he understood, he had read the Facebook posts.
“Facebook,” Manning replied, “doesn’t even touch the surface.”
Odell said he never heard from Manning again.
Instead, less than two weeks later, an e-mail from Manning popped up in Sacramento on the laptop screen of Adrian Lamo, who had been convicted in 2004 of breaching the computer systems of the New York Times and others, and sentenced to six months’ house arrest. Lamo, a controversial figure in the hacker community, said in a series of phone interviews that he speculated that he had come to Manning’s attention because of tweets he wrote suggesting people donate money to WikiLeaks.
They continued their correspondence by instant message. Manning’s handle was Bradass87. He said he was an intelligence analyst pending discharge and had had “unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months.” He also painted himself as “isolated,” “desperate,” “broken” and “self-medicating like crazy.”
And in the following hours, according to excerpts of chat logs provided to The Washington Post and Wired.com by Lamo, Manning referred extensively to what he said he found in the networks, including the quarter-million State Department cables — most of them unclassified — and the Baghdad video, “i want the material out there,” he said.
(The logs — Lamo provided The Post a small portion — have been authenticated by Army investigators, according to an intelligence official familiar with aspects of the case. According to a second source, the investigators matched the logs on Lamo’s hard drives with logs found on Manning’s hard drive.)
Lamo was impressed by the video leak but, he said, felt uneasy about the cables. He consulted an ex-boyfriend who had worked in counterintelligence, who advised him to turn the soldier in. Lamo did, three days after he began chatting with Manning. The chats continued, with Lamo probing for details.
And Manning appeared to be providing them, expressing a sense of outrage about the United States’ conduct in war and foreign policy. He said the cables revealed “crazy, almost criminal political backdealings.” In a chat published by Wired.com, he said: “The thing that got me most was discovering that 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing ‘anti-Iraqi’ literature” had in truth printed a “benign political critique” against the corruption in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s cabinet. He “ran” that information to his superior. But the officer “told me to shut up and explain how we could assist” the federal police in finding more detainees.
“Everything started slipping after that,” he wrote. “I was actively involved in something that i was completely against.”
He noted at another point that if he were “more malicious,” he could have sold the cables to China or Russia — “made bank.” But the data, he said, belong in the public domain. “Information should be free.”
Lamo later said he was “deeply conflicted” about reporting Manning, “given that Bradley is an individual acting out of his conscience and his desire to make the world a better place. ... However, he was actively trying to disrupt U.S. foreign policy.”
Lamo asked Manning what he would do if his role with WikiLeaks “seemed in danger of being blown?”
Manning replied: “i don’t think it’s going to happen”
“i mean, i was never noticed ...
“and who would honestly expect so much information to be exfiltrated from a field network?”
Long before the terrorist attacks of 2001, the Defense Department created a secure network to share operational plans and intelligence among military personnel. The data obtained by WikiLeaks came from this network, the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, to which more than half a million people have access. State Department cables are also accessible through SIPRnet because the department has found it less costly to piggyback on the military’s network than to build its own. But only employees with a “need to know” are authorized to see these cables.
Manning, despite his clearance, would not have had such a need. The Army alleges that he “knowingly exceeded [his] authorized access” to obtain the cables. He also lacked access to portions of the Afghan and Iraq databases, said the intelligence official familiar with the case, and allegedly installed unauthorized software on the SIPRnet to get at them.
The Army had security protocols that would have prevented the breach if followed, the official added. But safeguards to detect unauthorized installation of software had not been activated at the SCIF. Audit logs of computer activity were not reviewed. Bags were not inspected as personnel entered and left. To boost morale, the official said, people were allowed to bring in CDs and listen to them.
“The unit personnel that had responsibility for security of the network failed to do their job,” the official said. “It was flat-out apathy and a failure of the chain of command.”
In the chats, Manning appeared to share that view. “Everyone just sat at their workstations ... writing more stuff to CD/DVD,” he wrote Lamo. “ [The] culture fed opportunities. ... weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counterintelligence, inattentive signal analysis ... a perfect storm.”
Manning, with his history of emotional fragility, should at a minimum have had his clearance reviewed, said Joel F. Brenner, former national counterintelligence executive. His outbursts and emotional issues “should have been the big trigger.”
Nobody “cared about him,” said the intelligence official familiar with the case. “If somebody had taken an interest or tried to work with him, that very well may have changed his behavior.”
David Charney, a psychiatrist who has consulted on espionage cases, said supervisors can be trained to recognize signs of distress in people before they take actions that could harm national security. Young adults often don’t know their place in the world. “When there’s a lot of confusion about that,” he said, “then you really are talking about a deeper sense of being unmoored in life.”
Bradley Manning was detained on May 29 and held in Kuwait. On July 29, he was transferred to Quantico, where his treatment became an international cause celebre. The U.N. special rapporteur on torture asked to see him without being monitored but was not permitted to do so. In mid-April, Manning was moved to a medium-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which officials said has a greater array of mental health services. He has been deemed competent to stand trial. Army officials said he "maintains a presumption of innocence" throughout the pretrial process. He had not entered a plea as this story went to press.
“We have seen nothing that proves to us that he did it,” Debra Manning said.
Friends and relatives who have visited Manning say he tries to keep abreast of current events, following, for instance, the uprisings across the Middle East and the men’s college basketball tournament.
“He tries to think about the outside world as much as possible,” his cousin Chris in Potomac said. “You can tell he doesn’t want his mind confined to the prison.”
Ellen Nakashima is a Washington Post staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Greg Jaffe and staff researchers Julie Tate, Alice Crites and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this story. This portrait of Manning’s life comes from interviews with more than 30 relatives, friends and colleagues. Some asked for anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the case.
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