News Release Archive - 2015

Saudi Arabia: * Death for “Apostasy” * U.S. Weapons Fueling Wars

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at gmail.com, @AliAlAhmed_en
Al-Ahmed is director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, which just released a report on “The Saudi government school in Paris and the content of its schoolbooks that promote terrorism and hatred.”

Reuters reports: “A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a Palestinian poet to death for apostasy, abandoning his Muslim faith, according to trial documents seen by Human Rights Watch, its Middle East researcher Adam Coogle said on Friday. Ashraf Fayadh was detained by the country’s religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014.” Middle East Eye reports: “The exact charges under which Fayadh was initially held were not made clear, although some have suggested that his arrest was linked to his publication of a video showing religious police in Abha beating a young man in public. … Saudi Arabia has put to death nearly 150 people so far this year, the highest figure in two decades. Most people are executed by beheading with a sword, a method Saudi authorities say is more humane than other alternatives.”

Al-Ahmed has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including apostasy. See his piece “This medieval Saudi education system must be reformed.”

WILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55 at gmail.com, @williamhartung
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor.

He just wrote the piece, “U.S. Arms Sales Are Fueling Mideast Wars,” which states: “The majority of the Obama administration’s major arms sales have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia topping the list with over $49 billion in new agreements. This is particularly troubling given the complex array of conflicts raging throughout the region, and given the Saudi regime’s use of U.S.-supplied weaponry in its military intervention in Yemen. …

“The Obama administration’s push for more Mideast arms sales has been a bonanza for U.S. weapons contractors, who have made increased exports a primary goal as Pentagon spending levels off. Not only do foreign sales boost company profits, but they also help keep open production lines that would otherwise have to close due to declining orders from the Pentagon. …

“The use of U.S.-supplied helicopters, combat aircraft, bombs, and missiles in Yemen has contributed to the humanitarian catastrophe there. A recent attack on a wedding party that killed more than 130 people is just the latest example of the indiscriminate bombing that has resulted in the majority of the more than 2,300 civilian deaths caused by the war. The bombing has been coupled with a naval blockade that has led to a situation in which four out of five people in Yemen are now in need of humanitarian aid.”

Hollande and Obama: Doubling Down on “Imperialism”?

French president François Hollande will be visiting President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday. He will visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. For upcoming events, see accuracy.org/calendar.

Brussels, with 170,000 residents — and seat of the headquarters of NATO and the EU — is under lockdown.

DIANA JOHNSTONE, diana.johnstone at wanadoo.fr
Johnstone, a Paris-based journalist, recently wrote the piece “Terrorist Attacks in Paris: Can Tragedy Bring Change?” for Counterpunch. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She writes: “By stressing that now we are ‘at war,’ President Hollande seemed to be mimicking the U.S. reaction to 9/11. But at war with whom exactly?  France has been a foremost supporter of the ‘Assad must go’ line. Does France need to change wars? Should it, could it, possibly change foreign policies?

“President Obama went on television with statements of solidarity while the attacks were still going on. These statements were naturally played up by media wishing to use these attacks to secure and strengthen current U.S. domination of French foreign policy.

“Israeli condolences were quickly used by the usual commentators to stress that Israel understands us and stands by us, because Israel is a perpetual victim of such terror attacks, these days with ‘knife attacks…’ No, the attacks by desperate Palestinians are not the same as the gratuitous murders in Paris. That claim is familiar: because of 9/11, and now because of November 13, we are all in the same boat with Israel, fighting the same enemy. But which enemy, after all? The enemy of Israel is Hezbollah, which just suffered a devastating attack in Beirut from the same sort of people who massacred Parisians.” [see “Nasrallah’s Speech Right After the Paris Attacks: Condemns ISIS, Embraces Syrian Refugees.” Johnstone previously wrote Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions.

DEMBA MOUSSA DEMBELE, dembuss at hotmail.com
Demba Moussa Dembele is an economist from Senegal and member of African Social Forum. He said today: “Mali is one of the main collateral victims of the destruction of Libya and the assassination of President Gaddafi by NATO imperialist forces, led by the U.S., France and the UK.

“The invasion of Northern Mali was a direct consequence of Libya’s destruction. As the world is witnessing every day, Libya has become a nest of terrorist groups.

“So, what happened in Bamako this Friday, November 20th, is another manifestation of the spread of terrorism to the Sahel region as a result of NATO’s invasion of Libya.

“Therefore, it is fair to say that the U.S., France, the UK and their NATO allies are the main parties responsible for the terrorist attacks in Bamako and in other countries of the Sahel region.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. In his book on Destroying Libya and World Order, Boyle predicted the outcome of the Libya intervention would be a collapsed state and increased jihadi elements in nearby countries including Mali and Algeria. The New York Times reports now: “Mali Hotel Attackers Are Tied to an Algerian Qaeda Leader.”

He said today: “The UN Security Council resolution passed over the weekend was not a Chapter 7 resolution, so legally it doesn’t authorize the use of force, but the U.S. and France will use it to give legal cover for their illegal bombing of Syria, which has gone on for more than a year now. It appears that British Prime Minister Cameron will now be doing the same. The Russian bombing of Syria is technically legal because they have the explicit permission of the Syrian government, but of course Putin will ultimately act in accord with his interests, not what is best for the Syrian people.” Boyle’s other books include Tackling America’s Toughest Questions and Biowarfare and Terrorism.

Mali: Libya Bombing and Saudi Power as Sources of Instability

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Only in the U.S. through next week, Baraka is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and is based in Colombia.

He said today: “The destabilization of Mali and the enhanced power of jihadist groups in in the country are a direct consequence of the British and French led NATO assault on Libya. Across the North and West Africa, it was the militant jihadist forces who became the real beneficiaries of the Western led destruction of Libya which resulted in arms and reinvigorated radical Islamist movements in a number of countries in Africa. Unfortunately, the innocent are paying the price for the misguided policies of the French government.”

While NPR reports that “France has historic ties with Mali, where gunmen took hostages at a luxury hotel in the capital Bamako.” Baraka highlights the nature of those “historic ties.” Says Baraka: “It is important to understand the nefarious role of the French state in Mali — and indeed across north Africa — as French policies have resulted in increased ability of these reactionary forces to carry out these horrific acts that we are all witness to.

Baraka is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. He recently wrote the piece “The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement” in which he writes of the Paris attacks representing “blowback” from France’s intervention in Syria. Writes Baraka, ”In the context of the existing global power relations, crimes committed by Western states and those states aligned with the West as well as their paramilitary institutions escape accountability for crimes committed in the non-European world. In fact some states — like the United States — proudly claim their ‘exceptionality,’ meaning impunity from international norms, as a self-evident natural right.”

Added Baraka: “There’s also the critical role of the Saudi government and individual citizens regarding the rise and enhancement of power of radical jihadi movements in the Mideast, Africa and indeed, the world.” See his piece on the ongoing Saudi bombing of Yemen in Counterpunch: “The Yemen Tragedy and the Ongoing Crisis of the Left in the United States.”

Baraka warned in the piece “From Benghazi to Boko Haram: Why I support the Benghazi Inquiry” from last year: “African Union Commission chief Jean Ping warned NATO, during its bombing campaign and arming of so-called rebel forces in Libya, that the weapons they provided the ‘rebels’ would end up in the hands of al-Qaeda throughout Africa. He said, ‘Africa’s concern is that weapons that are delivered to one side or another … are already in the desert and will arm terrorists and fuel trafficking.’

“Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed what many in Africa feared from the NATO attack on Libya: ‘We knew that at the end of the Libya operations, there would be fallouts. And the fallout would be where would all the weapons go? Where would be some of those who have been trained how to use weapons [and] how would they be accounted for? … Part of what is happening in Mali is part of the fallout from Libya, and we should not expect that Mali will be the last.'”

Background: Nick Turse on “Democracy Now” earlier this week: “”Tomorrow’s Battlefield”: As U.S. Special Ops Enter Syria, Growing Presence in Africa Goes Unnoticed” stated: “One example is the case of Mali, where you had a U.S.-trained officer who overthrew the democratically elected government there just two years ago. You know, this was — Mali was supposed to be a bulwark against terrorism. It was supposed to be a stable success story. Instead you have that occurrence. Then, last year, a U.S.-trained officer overthrew the government of Burkina Faso. …

“And it then had a tendency to spread across the continent. Gaddafi had Tuaregs from Mali who worked for him. They were elite troops. As his regime was falling, the Tuaregs raided his weapons stores, and they moved into Mali, into their traditional homeland, to carve out their own nation there. When they did that, the U.S.-backed military in Mali, that we had been training for years, began to disintegrate. That’s when the U.S.-trained officer decided that he could do a better job, overthrew the democratically elected government. But he proved no better at fighting the Tuaregs than the government he overthrew. As a result, Islamist rebels came in and pushed out his forces and the Tuaregs, and were making great gains in the country, looked poised to take it over.”The U.S. decided to intervene again, another military intervention. We backed the French and an African force to go in and stop the Islamists. We were able to, with these proxies — which is the preferred method of warfare on the African continent — arrest the Islamists’ advance, but now Mali has descended into a low-level insurgency. And it’s been like this for several years now. The weapons that the Tuaregs originally had were taken by the Islamists and have now spread across the continent. You can find those weapons in the hands of Boko Haram now, even as far away as Sinai in Egypt. So, now, the U.S. has seen this as a way to stop the spread of militancy, but I think when you look, you see it just has spread it.”

“What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters”

LYDIA WILSON, lydia.wilson at hmc.ox.ac.uk, @lsmwilson
Last month, The Nation published Wilson’s article “What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters.”

In an interview on “Democracy Now” this week, she described the goals of ISIS: “One is to cause as much terror on the streets as you can, to attack tourist destinations so that security is strengthened in those places, and it costs the unbelieving nations more money. And one is to drag us into a war, to drag our forces into wars that we cannot win, and — as they see it — and also that we will spend an awful lot of our money and power fighting.”

Of the fighters she interviewed, Wilson said they had “very low education rates — one was illiterate entirely — and big families and often unemployed. So, ISIS was not only offering them a chance to fight for their Sunni identity, but they were offering them money. They were being paid to be foot soldiers. And, I mean, one of them was the eldest of 17 siblings. …”

In her article, Wilson writes: “‘The Americans came,’ he said. ‘They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.’ …

“These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki. Growing up Sunni Arab was no fun. A later interviewee described his life growing up under American occupation: He couldn’t go out, he didn’t have a life, and he specifically mentioned that he didn’t have girlfriends. An Islamic State fighter’s biggest resentment was the lack of an adolescence. Another of the interviewees was displaced at the critical age of 13, when his family fled to Kirkuk from Diyala province at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil war.

“They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity but cultural, tribal, and land-based, too.”

Wilson is a research fellow at the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, University of Oxford; a visiting fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center, City University New York; and a senior research fellow and field director at Artis International. She edits the Cambridge Literary Review.

Drone Whistleblowers: U.S. Assassination Program Ignites Terrorism

The Guardian reports: “Four former U.S. Air Force service members, with more than 20 years of experience between them operating military drones, have written an open letter to Barack Obama warning that the program of targeted killings by unmanned aircraft has become a major driving force for ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“The group of servicemen have issued an impassioned plea to the Obama administration, calling for a rethink of a military tactic that they say has ‘fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like Isis, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantánamo Bay’. …

“The four are represented legally by Jesselyn Radack, director of national security and human rights at the nonprofit ExposeFacts [a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy]. ‘This is the first time we’ve had so many people speaking out together about the drone program,’ she said, pointing out that the men were fully aware that they faced possible prosecution for speaking out.” See Guardian piece “Obama’s drone war a ‘recruitment tool’ for ISIS, say U.S. Air Force whistleblowers” which includes the letter from the whistleblowers and a clip of the new film, “Drone.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com@andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn is available for a limited number of interviews. He is author of the recently released book Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. His recent articles include “Flying Blind” and “How Assassination Sold Drugs and Promoted Terrorism.” See accuracy.org news release: “Killer Drones: Analysis and Protest of the ‘Bureaucracy of Murder’.”

ED KINANE, edkinane at verizon.net
Kinane is with Upstate Drone Action in Syracuse and has participated in a series of actions outside the Hancock Air Force Base, where killer drones are operated from. Kinane and and other activists served jail time for their actions. He just wrote “Exposing the Killer Drones of Hancock Airbases’s 174th Attack Wing.” His prior pieces include “Exposing Drone Terrorism.”

Kinane is quoted in the recent piece in the Atlantic: “The Drone Economy The unmanned-aircraft industry could help to revive a struggling region. But what are the consequences?

Causes of Terror: Examining Saudi and U.S. Policies

BBC reports: “U.S. State Department approves Saudi Arabia arms sale.” See: “Despite Atrocities, U.S. Approves $1.29 Billion Deal to Re-Arm Saudi Arabia.”

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup at csuchico.edu
Grosscup is author of several books on terrorism including The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and, most recently, Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment.

He stressed two points:

“1. Who is funding ISIS: Saudis and other Sunni Gulf states — most of whom, Turkey included, are, other than Israel of course, the U.S. government’s best friends in the Middle East.

“2. The regime change demand for Syria is the same Neocon non-negotiable demand that got us in this place in Iraq and Libya.

“Thus,” he added, the “best strategy — assuming U.S. wants to diminish the radical (Whabbi) Sunni threat — is to push hard on the Saudis; especially, to stop backing their Yemen War. Of course this could mean threatening a longstanding relationship. But U.S. needs to ask: What price peace?

“In Syria, U.S. and its allies should stop trying to dictate who rules Syria. The U.S. government has historically worked with the Assad family (same as with Gaddafi in Libya) — why all of a sudden did he have to go? ISIS can only be diminished if they are met with a united front in Syria and Iraq politically as local and international political unity is central to military unity.

“Finally, U.S. citizens need to recognize how much the allegedly discredited Neocon strategy of divide and conquer and regime change that dominated Bush/Cheney continue to guide the Obama Administration and are likely to guide the next administration whether GOP or Democrat, especially if current front-runners hold. It is important to stop the failed Neocon stranglehold on U.S. (indeed Western) policy.”

See: “Barbara Lee Interestingly Declines to Address U.S. Arms to Saudi Arabia.”

Paris: * “Rationales” * Regime Change * Refugees

Some politicians are criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting Tuesday that there was a “rationale” for the assault on satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, unlike the more recent attacks in Paris. But some analysts point to actual cold logic behind the recent attack as well.

SCOTT ATRAN, satran at umich.edu
Atran is director of research at France’s National Center for Scientific Research and research professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and the University of Michigan. He just co-wrote “Paris: The War ISIS Wants” for the New York Review of Books, which states: “ISIS’s theatrical brutality — whether in the Middle East or now in Europe — is part of a conscious plan designed to instill among believers a sense of meaning that is sacred and sublime, while scaring the hell out of fence-sitters and enemies. This strategy was outlined in the 2004 manifesto Idarat at Tawahoush (The Management of Savagery), a tract written for ISIS’s precursor, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda…” See also: “What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters.”

NAFEEZ AHMED, iprdoffice at gmail.com, @NafeezAhmed
An independent investigative reporter, Ahmed is a columnist with Middle East Eye. His books include A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization. He just wrote the piece “ISIS Wants to Destroy the ‘Grey Zone’. Here’s How We Defend it,” which argues that part of what ISIS wants is Western countries to reject refugees.

JAMES PAUL, james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Author of Syria Unmasked, Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN, for nearly 20 years. He just wrote the piece “Grasping the Motives for Terror,” for Consortium News. Earlier this year, he was featured on an accuracy.org news release, “Regime Change Refugees,” which states: “The Western leaders and media stay silent about the military intervention and regime change, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart.” He can also address the specifics of refugees in Europe and points to global warming as a factor in creating refugees from both Syria and the Balkans.

JAMES JENNINGS, jjennings at conscienceinternational.org
Jennings is president of Conscience International, a humanitarian organization that delivers aid to Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. Jennings said today: “Let’s not close our hearts just because politicians close our borders. Following the Paris attacks, fear mongering has become fashionable in Congress and in most governor’s mansions. But it is based on ignorance. Such paranoia is shameful, with the result that we are denying our values and living in a national security state best called Fortress America.

“The vetting process now in place is already a dreadful maze — a Rubic’s Cube of bureaucracies practically guaranteeing that few Syrians will ever set foot on our shores. The process takes up to three years and requires 21 steps with numerous agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, all required to sign off. There is next to no chance that a terrorist could get in under the present system. A greater threat is posed by considerable numbers of disaffected, angry young men who are already in the U.S.

“Our civic and religious traditions and the enormous good will of most of our citizens demand that we exercise compassion toward our fellow human beings. Just as in a disaster at sea, women and children should be admitted first, then the elderly, then men of good will of whatever age. Although the numbers the administration plans to admit to the United States are indeed miniscule compared to those entering Germany, we must still find it in our hearts to allow them to come, while simultaneously reaching out to the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees abroad and the displaced in war-torn Syria itself.”

Clinton Foundation a “Money Laundering Operation” for “Influence Peddling” by Dictators

KEN SILVERSTEIN, ken.silverstein at gmail.com, @kensilverstein1
Silverstein — a Washington, D.C. based investigative reporter and author of several books on politics and money — just wrote the piece “Shaky Foundations: The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends” for Harper’s Magazine. Silverstein writes: “After endless delays and excuses, the Clinton Foundation released its 2014 tax return as well as amended returns for the previous four years and an audit of its finances. That fulfilled a pledge made last April by Clinton Foundation acting CEO, Maura Pally, who acknowledged that the foundation had previously made a few unfortunate accounting ‘mistakes.’

“Journalists are going to be scouring through this new financial information and pumping out ‘balanced’ stories that evade what is already evident, namely that the Clintons have used their foundation for crass profiteering and influence peddling.

“If the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies do their jobs, the foundation will be closed and its current and past trustees, who include Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton, will be indicted. That’s because their so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich Clinton family friends. …

“It is beyond dispute that former President Clinton has been directly involved in helping foundation donors and his personal cronies get rich. Even worse, it is beyond dispute that these very same donors and the Clintons’ political allies have won the focused attention of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when she served as Secretary of State. Democrats and Clinton apologists will write these accusations off as conspiracy mongering and right-wing propaganda, but it’s an open secret to anyone remotely familiar with accounting and regulatory requirements for charities that the financial records are deliberately misleading. …

“[A] Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership — which is run by one of Bill Clinton’s close friends, Frank Giustra — has been moving significant sums of money into the Clinton Foundation’s flagship in New York. There’s no way for the public to know precisely how much total money the CGEP has taken in over the years — or how much it has forwarded on to the Clinton Foundation — because, unlike in the United States, under Canadian non-profit law charities don’t need to report donors to tax authorities. Earlier this year, after being severely criticized by the Canadian press, the CGEP released the names of 24 of its donors, but more than 1,000 are still unknown. (CGEP wrote in an email that ‘going forward [it] will publicly disclose all future donors.’) …

“One money-laundering expert and former intelligence officer based in the Middle East — who had access to the foundation’s confidential banking information — told me that members of the royal family in Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have donated money to the CGEP that has then been sluiced through to the Clinton Foundation. He told me that the CGEP has received money from corrupt officials in South Africa during the former regime of Jacob Zuma and from senior officials in Equatorial Guinea, one of the most brutal and crooked dictatorships in the world. ‘Equatorial Guinea doesn’t give to the Clinton Foundation in New York because it’s too embarrassing,’ he said. ‘They give the money anonymously in Canada and that buys them political protection in the United States. The Clinton Foundation is a professionally structured money-laundering operation.'”

Silverstein’s books include the recently-released The Secret World of Oil as well as The Radioactive Boy Scout.

Liberté?

The Guardian reports: “Since the Paris attacks on Friday night, France has been living under a nationwide state of emergency not seen since 1961. … The procedure harks back to the start of the Algerian war in the 1950s, giving exceptional powers to authorities…”

While some are claiming that increased government surveillance is needed after the attacks on Paris, TechDirt reports: “France Already Expanded Surveillance Twice In The Past Year — Perhaps Expanding It Again Is Not The Answer?

BARRY LANDO, barrylando at gmail.com
Lando, who lives in London and Paris, is a former producer with “60 Minutes.” His books include Web of Deceit about the history of Iraq. His piece “Total War” notes that severe civil liberties restrictions were in place the last several months in France.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Rowley wrote to the FBI Director again in February 2003 with some hard questions about the reliability of the evidence being adduced to “justify” the impending invasion of Iraq. She now warns of terror attacks being used as pretexts for official agendas. She also warns that bulk collection of personal data by government is not only counter to liberty, but counterproductive to the alleged goal of stopping attacks. See her piece in the Guardian: “The Bigger the Haystack, the Harder the Terrorist is to Find.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com@emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She blogs at emptywheel.net.

She just wrote the piece “Metadata Surveillance Didn’t Stop the Paris Attacks,” which states: “Since terrorists struck Paris last Friday night, the debate over whether encryption prevents intelligence services from stopping attacks has reignited. The New York Times and Yahoo reported on vague claims that the terrorists’ use of encryption stymied investigators who might have thwarted their plans. CIA Director John Brennan made equally vague comments Monday morning, warning that thanks to the privacy protections of the post-Snowden era, it is now ‘much more challenging’ for intelligence agencies to find terrorists. Jeb Bush piled on, saying that the United States needs to restore its program collecting metadata on U.S. phone calls, even though that program won’t be shut down until the end of this month.

“Following a terrorism incident as shocking as the Paris attacks, it is no surprise that politicians and the intelligence establishment would want to widen American spying capabilities. But their arguments are conflating the forest — bulk metadata collection — and the trees: access to individual communications about the attack. To understand why that’s the case, start with this tweet from former NSA and DHS official Stewart Baker: ‘NSA’s 215 program’ — and by association the far larger metadata dragnet of which the domestically focused phone-metadata program is just a small part — ‘was designed to detect a Mumbai/Paris-style attack.’

“Only it didn’t.

“The United States and United Kingdom’s metadata collection that focuses on the Middle East and Europe is far more extensive than the phone dragnet being shut down later this month, and its use has far more permissive rules. This dragnet is mostly limited by technology, not law. And France — which rewrote its surveillance laws after the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year –has its own surveillance system. Both are in place, yet neither detected the Nov. 13 plot. This means they failed to alert authorities to the people they should more closely target via both electronic and physical surveillance. In significant part, this system appears to have failed before it even got to the stage at which investigators would need to worry about terrorists’ use of encryption.”

Paris, Beirut and the “Weaponization of Grief”

RANIA MASRI, rania.z.masri at gmail.com, @rania_masri
Masri is an activist in Beirut. She was featured on an accuracy.org news release about the attacks in Lebanon just before the attacks in Paris titled, “From Beirut After Bombing: ‘We are Not Numbers’.” She stresses the need for authentic solidarity, transcending sectarian and national boundaries.

Masri has long warned about U.S. wars feeding sectarianism and Gulf backing of groups like ISIS in Syria. She noted the piece in the Guardian: “Now the truth emerges: how the U.S. fuelled the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.” Masri also highlighted the recent speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has been battling ISIS. As’ad AbuKhalil writes that Nasrallah in the speech is virtually alone among major figures in Lebanon: “He spoke against bigotry against Syrian refugee population and stressed that no matter how much ISIS strikes in Lebanon, the refugees should not be blamed or harmed in any way.”

JIM NAURECKAS, jnaureckas at fair.org, @JNaureckas
Naureckas is editor of FAIR’s magazine Extra! and just wrote the piece It’s True, Media Did Cover Beirut Bombings–About 1/40th as Much as They Covered Paris Attacks

He also wrote recently wrote: “Context-Free Coverage of Terror Helps Perpetuate Its Causes,” which states: “It feels callous to question the allocation of outrage; empathy is in such short supply in this world that one hesitates to question it when it emerges. But as a long-time citizen of New York City, I’m all too aware of the weaponization of grief. The outpouring of no-context, ahistorical sympathy after 9/11 helped pave the way for a violent reaction that killed in Iraq alone roughly 150 times as many people as died in Lower Manhattan that day — an opportunistic catastrophe that did more to mock than avenge those deaths.

“Just as the question of Al-Qaeda’s motives in 2001 provoked more self-congratulation than serious inquiry (Extra! Update, 10/01), coverage of Paris in 2015 tends to skirt over political realities. Thus the New York Times (11/13/15) could report: ‘A stunned and confused French capital was again left to wonder: Why us? Once again?’ The obvious answer was alluded to obliquely by a soccer stadium spectator: ‘With all the strikes in Syria, we’re not safe anymore.’

“Readers were presumed to know this referred to the French bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria, which began in September, following aerial attacks against ISIS’s positions in Iraq that started last year (CNN, 9/27/15). Just last week, France joined in intensified strikes against ISIS-controlled oil fields in Syria (New York Times, 11/12/15). By last summer, Western airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria had reportedly killed at least 459 civilians, including more than 100 children (Guardian, 8/3/15).”