News Releases

Veterans Day “Concert for Valor”

RORY FANNING, walkforpat at gmail.com, @RTFanning
Fanning is a former Army Ranger and author of the book Worth Fighting For, which will be released on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. In his most recent article “ Thank You for Your Valor, Thank You for Your Service, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You… ,” he states: “Last week, in a quiet indie bookstore on the north side of Chicago, I saw the latest issue of Rolling Stone resting on a chrome-colored plastic table a few feet from a barista brewing a vanilla latte. A cold October rain fell outside. A friend of mine grabbed the issue and began flipping through it. Knowing that I was a veteran, he said, ‘Hey, did you see this?’ pointing to a news story that seemed more like an ad. It read in part:

“This Veterans Day, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, and Metallica will be among numerous artists who will head to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on November 11th for ‘The Concert For Valor,’ an all-star event that will pay tribute to armed services.

“‘Concert For Valor? That sounds like something the North Korean government would organize,’ I said as I typed Concertforvalor.com into my MacBook Pro looking for more information… As I read, my heart sank, my shoulders slumped.

“Special guests at the Concert for Valor were to include: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg. The mission of the concert, according to a press release, was to ‘raise awareness’ of veterans issues and ‘provide a national stage for ensuring that veterans and their families know that their fellow Americans’ gratitude is genuine.’

“Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen were to serve in an advisory capacity, and Starbucks, HBO, and JP Morgan Chase were to pay for it all. ‘We are honored to play a small role to help raise awareness and support for our service men and women,’ said HBO chairman Richard Plepler.

“Will the ‘Concert for Valor’ mention the trillions of dollars rung up terrorizing Muslim countries for oil, the ratcheting up of the police and surveillance state in this country since 9/11, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost thanks to the wars of George W. Bush and Barack Obama? Is anyone going to dedicate a song to Chelsea Manning, or John Kiriakou, or Edward Snowden — two of them languishing in prison and one in exile — for their service to the American people? Will the Concert for Valor raise anyone’s awareness when it comes to the fact that, to this day, veterans lack proper medical attention, particularly for mental health issues, or that there is a veteran suicide every 80 minutes in this country? Let’s hope they find time in between drum solos, but myself, I’m not counting on it.”

Exploding Rocket: Underlines “Folly of Using Nuclear Power in Space”

AP is reporting: “The company behind the dramatic launch explosion of a space station supply mission promises to find the cause of the failure and is warning residents to avoid any potentially hazardous wreckage.

“Orbital Sciences Corp.’s unmanned Antares rocket blew up just moments after liftoff Tuesday evening from the Virginia coast.”

KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman at hamptons.com
A veteran investigative reporter, Grossman has been a recipient of the George Polk Award and other honors for his journalism. He is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury.

He said today: “This event underlines again the folly of using nuclear power in space — something the United States and Russia are again actively planning. An explosion on launch is not unusual — indeed, one out of 100 rockets fail on launch. But, consider if radioactive materials were on board — as will be the situation for the proposed U.S. and Russian nuclear space shots (this rocket was equipped with a Russian engine).” Grossman is author of The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet and for the last nearly 30 years, has been challenging the use of nuclear power in space. He he broke the story in The Nation magazine about how the next mission of the ill-fated Challenger shuttle involved it lofting a space probe with a plutonium-powered electrical generating system on board. Among Grossman’s articles is, from CounterPunch: “Obama and the Nuclear Rocket.” His documentaries include “Nukes in Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens.”

Grossman added: “Meanwhile, enormous advances have been made in the use of safe solar power to generate electricity on spacecraft. Even way out in space, the European Space Agency’s solar-powered Rosetta spacecraft recently successfully rendezvoused with a comet and NASA’s Juno’s solar-powered space probe is now on its way to Jupiter.”

Amazon-CIA $600 Million Deal Facing Scrutiny: “What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?”

CIA Amazon ImageA billboard challenging Amazon to fully disclose the terms of its $600 million contract to provide cloud computing services for the Central Intelligence Agency has been unveiled at a busy intersection near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.

The billboard’s launch — asking “the $600 million question: What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?” — marks the escalation of a campaign by the online activist organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts.org. The groups are calling for accountability from Amazon in an effort to inform the public of serious privacy implications of the Amazon-CIA collaboration. (ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

The positioning of the 48-foot-wide billboard on Amazon’s doorstep at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street in Seattle follows a RootsAction petition calling for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to make a legally binding commitment to Amazon’s commercial customers that it will not provide customer data to the CIA.

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. “The same company that stores vast quantities of customer records and even provides cloud storage services also stores the CIA’s surveillance data — yet the actual terms of the Amazon-CIA agreement are secret,” said Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

To see the billboard, click here.

“Amazon now averages 162 million unique visitors to its sites every month,” Solomon said. “The firm’s business model depends on accumulating and analyzing huge quantities of personal data. Meanwhile, the CIA depends on gathering and analyzing data to assist with surveillance as well as U.S. military interventions overseas. The circumstances are ominous.”

In hosting a huge computing cloud for the CIA’s secrets, Amazon now has “a digital place where data for mass surveillance and perpetual war are converging,” he added. The CIA is responsible for numerous war-related programs including drone strikes.

Marcy Wheeler — who writes widely on the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties including her “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts.org — said Wednesday that Amazon should answer a number of key questions before its customers and the general public can be assured that personal information from the company’s commercial operations is not finding its way into the CIA’s hands.

For instance, she said, Bezos and Amazon should answer the question: “Will there be any overlap between the physical hardware serving Amazon’s commercial cloud service and what is provided to the CIA?”

Referring to the CIA’s machinations over the still-unreleased Senate torture report, she added that Bezos should also be asked: “The CIA has admitted accessing documents made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee on shared space — what provisions have you made to prevent similar spying on Amazon’s commercial customers?”

Wheeler also noted that according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amazon is “one of the only major cloud providers that doesn’t provide a transparency report of government requests.” In light of Amazon’s CIA contract, Bezos should be asked: “Do you believe your cloud customers should have some visibility of how you respond to government requests?”

Amazon’s current “Privacy Notice” to customers reads: “We release account and other personal information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law; enforce or apply our Conditions of Use and other agreements; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Amazon.com, our users, or others.”

Solomon said this notice “has loopholes big enough to fly a drone through.”

After Amazon Web Services was awarded the $600 million cloud contract last year, Amazon declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.” Industry experts have said this contract will likely open the door for Amazon to get more cloud contracts from other government spy and military agencies — hardly a reassuring prospect for the privacy of Amazon’s customers.

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 and writes the “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts.org.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @normansolomon
Solomon is the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Background: Government Executive: “Daring Deal

CDC Finally Acknowledging Ebola Air Droplet Transmission; What’s Next?

MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @NassMeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog. She said today: “After months of loudly claiming that Ebola can’t spread through the air [eg, 'Ebola is not spread through the air or by water'], late Friday the CDC finally put out an infographic somewhat forthrightly acknowledging air droplet transmission of the disease [PDF].

“The graphic states that ‘Ebola is spread through droplets’ and ‘droplets can contaminate objects like doorknobs.’ CDC attempts to split hairs by the way it contrasts such transmission with ‘airborne’ transmission, and the CDC is insisting that such transmission occurs no further than three feet from the affected patient — while there’s good evidence small droplets may travel much further, and remain viable (infectious) on surfaces for hours or sometimes days.

“The CDC’s stance on droplets was part of a pattern: saying Ebola could be ‘stopped in its tracks’ in the U.S., and that U.S. hospitals are ready.

“Unfortunately, U.S. hospitals are not ready. Anthony Fauci of the NIH recently said: ‘We need to have more than just the four [biocontainment units] in which you have people who are pre-trained…’ It’s certainly true we need more than the current four Biosafety Level 4 centers for the entire U.S., but it’s not just a matter of training. They have facilities other hospitals — including Bellevue — just don’t have. Both Dr. Craig Spencer and patient Thomas Eric Duncan have been treated in emptied, isolation wards. What happens when there are too many Ebola patients to be treated in otherwise empty ICUs, by armies of healthcare professionals?

“The way Bellevue is responding to Ebola is just not sustainable for a large epidemic. The isolation rooms cost $3-4 million each to create.” See: Wall Street Journal: “Bellevue, Home to Ebola Unit, Moves Patients to NYU.” The Daily News reports: “Dozens of specially trained staff are required to man Bellevue’s Ebola ward, which is on the seventh floor and has four beds. And with some 20 nurses and ancillary staff rolling through during a 24-hour shift, that meant pulling staff from the 10th floor ICU.”

Nass adds: “There are a host of huge issues we should be dealing with, including: The slowness and sheer paltriness of the international response in Africa; the $60 plus billion that was supposed to be spent (since the anthrax letters in 2001) to get vaccines and drugs for ‘Category A’ threats including Ebola; the accidental release of viruses from labs and the intentional creation of more dangerous viruses at U.S. bioweapons labs, aka ‘gain of function’ research.”

See IPA news release from Oct. 21: “Ebola: Are U.S. Bioweapons Labs the Solution, or the Problem?New York Times from Oct. 17: “White House to Cut Funding for Risky Biological Study” and USA Today from Aug. 17: “Hundreds of Bioterror Lab Mishaps Cloaked in Secrecy.”

See past posts by Nass:

CDC now admits Ebola can float through the air, and land on doorknobs.”

5 Ebola patients in Kikwit outbreak had no physical contact to explain transmission, and scientists suggest other mechanisms.”

Look, CDC is simply lying. Its own publications acknowledge that Ebola may aerosolize, and must be contained in BSL-4 facilities (that are not currently available in any ordinary hospitals).”

Ebola Causes Chronic Illnesses in Those Who Manage to Recover/ CBS and USAMRIID.”

Indemnifying Pharma for Ebola Vaccines: Recipe for Problems?

Airborne Spread of Ebola from Pigs to Macaques / Nature.”

CDC defined infectious respiratory droplet transmission as different than airborne.”

Is This A New, More Virulent Ebola?

Behind Soros’ Attack on Russia

GILBERT DOCTOROW, [in Brussels] gdoctorow at yahoo.com
Doctorow recently wrote the piece “Twilight of the Gods: George Soros in Brussels,” which states: “George Soros’s press conference in Brussels on Thursday, 23 October, had one unifying theme, his loathing of Russia.

“Nominally it was to publicize his latest essay, ‘Wake Up, Europe‘ released several days ago on the online edition of the New York Review of Books and already republished in various world newspapers of record in local languages. …

“The setting for the event was a two-day Global Briefing seminar of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group which otherwise was taking place behind closed doors for the benefit of participants sponsored by their companies, embassies and NGO employers.

“But when you put up more than $50,000 a year in sponsorship contributions, as Soros does for the ICG, you get perks like the 45 minutes of on-record prime time just after lunch with journalists invited in as Soros did on Thursday. The moderator was of appropriate stature, ICG co-chair Lord Malloch-Brown….

“This New Ukraine, in Soros’ view, is the embodiment of democratic principles: of rule of law, fighting corruption, structural reform. It is on the front line against an imperialist minded, aggressive Russia. Therefore, it is in Europe’s interest to provide this New Ukraine with military assistance and financial aid, which immediately equates to 19-20 billion dollars. …

“When asked about the just released Human Rights Watch condemnation of use of cluster bombs by the Kiev government, Soros agreed this was very regrettable and he said he himself flagged the issue in a tiny box that is part of his essay.

“Of course, neither he nor anyone else in the room bothered to mention one nasty detail: the alleged use of cluster bombs by Government forces was directed against residential districts and schools, aimed almost exclusively at the civilian population.

“Soros has never been bashful about leveraging his philanthropic/cultural activities to serve his speculative ventures as financier. And so he used the press conference to appeal to Europe to supervise a debt exchange program that would effectively bail out bond holders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, to the tune of the $19 billion falling due in the coming year, and not to accede to a Cyprus or Greek type ‘bail-in’ or ‘haircut’ for the investors that would amount to default and cut off Ukraine from international financing of its private industrial recovery.

“This sounds nice, but as of the start of 2014, $7 billion of that sovereign debt was held by one U.S. company, Franklin Templeton. Turning those short term bonds into a modern day equivalent of Brady bonds with EU and US guarantees would clearly serve the interests of Soros’s friends in the investment community; and who knows, since Soros did not volunteer full disclosure and was asked by no one for transparency, how much of that debt he and companies he controls hold. …

“Press coverage of Soros’s appearance in Brussels has followed the master script of his handouts. Bloomberg.com was typically obsequious to the billionaire.”

Doctorow is a noted “Russia watcher,” a Brussels-based journalists and founder of the European office of the Committee on East-West Accord. For 25 years he worked for U.S. and European multinationals in marketing and general management with regional responsibility. Now Doctorow regularly publishes analytical articles about international affairs on the portal of the Belgian daily La Libre Belgique and has recently been a contributor of op-ed articles on U.S.-Russian relations to the English-language Moscow Times. He is a research fellow of the American University in Moscow.

Ebola: U.S. Hospitals “Still Unprepared”; “Must be Confronted in Africa”

rsz_141023183511-craig-spencer-facebook---read-notes-story-bodyMERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @NassMeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog. She has debunked government claims from early on in the Ebola crisis, including the slowness of the response in Africa and the notion that U.S. hospitals were prepared before the events in Dallas. She said today: “Officials continue to claim that Ebola is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids. We don’t know this. There is ample evidence from animal experiments that Ebola can be transmitted through aerosol droplets that are expelled when we cough, sneeze and speak. Furthermore, CDC has tacitly acknowledged this, by enhancing their personal protective equipment [PPE] recommendation to cover droplets, on Oct. 20.

“However, hospitals in the U.S. are still unprepared for Ebola. You need a BSL-4 lab (like at the U.S.’s four biocontainment facilities) to safely test Ebola victims’ blood, and avoid contaminating the laboratory. There are no such hospital labs in New York, though Bellevue seems to have made some preparedness efforts, and is in the process of building such a lab

“Furthermore, patients who recover from Ebola tend to have persisting medical problems. And recovery is not assured. Fifty-six percent of doctors and nurses in Africa who developed Ebola have died.

“For all these reasons, the United States will not be able to easily manage an Ebola epidemic. Therefore, it MUST be confronted and ended in Africa. It’s scandalous that the richer nations and WHO failed to respond last spring, before thousands died. The international community, with the notable exception of Cuba, has totally failed in its responsibilities.”

Some of Nass’ recent posts: “MSF [Doctors Without Borders] discusses treatment approaches and its role in therapeutic drug trials.”

Airborne Spread of Ebola from Pigs to Macaques / Nature.”

Indemnifying Pharma for Ebola Vaccines: Recipe for Problems?

Is This A New, More Virulent Ebola?

CDC defined infectious respiratory droplet transmission as different than airborne.”

Canada at War: Shooting on Parliament Hill

Death-of-Bin-LadenCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today that Wednesday’s attack on Parliament Hill “will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts, and those of our national security agencies.”

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net
Erlich said today: “The killing of the Canadian soldier in Ottawa yesterday was a tragic, criminal act. We don’t know the motives of the killer. But the Canadian and U.S. governments are already using the incident to instill fear and justify further military aggression in Iraq and Syria.” Erlich is an award winning foreign correspondent and author of the new book, Inside Syria: the Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect (foreword by Noam Chomsky). He also wrote “10 Myths About Obama’s Latest War.” One of his previous books is Conversations With Terrorists. See from Oct. 7: “Canada at war: Vote to launch combat mission against ISIS passes 157-134 in House of Commons.”

SHAHID MAHMOOD, shahid at drawnconclusions.com
Mahmood, who lives in Toronto, was an editorial cartoonist for Dawn, a leading national newspaper in Pakistan. He is now internationally syndicated with the New York Times Syndicate. He just wrote a piece titled “Harper and Malala” (not yet published) which notes that on Wednesday, Harper was to have two events in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, but they were cancelled after the shooting. See: “Harper cancels Malala citizenship event in wake of shooting.”

Says Mahmood: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has dragged Canada into an asymmetrical war with ISIS. This only ensures future Canadian casualties — brought about from a misguided foreign policy. At Malala’s citizenship ceremony Prime Minister Harper was going to publicly commit over $100 million to the Global Partnership for Education — an organization that Malala supports. Prime Minister Harper postponed Malala’s ceremony in the wake of the shootings on Parliament Hill. This was a missed opportunity for making a powerful statement to radicalized fundamentalists worldwide.” See a recent interview with Malala on NBC.com in Philadelphia — “Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai to Obama: Stop Arming the World” — in which she recounts speaking with President Obama: “I said instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending weapons, send teachers.”

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup at csuchico.edu
Grosscup is author of several books on terrorism including The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment. He said today: “These events are being labeled ‘Canada’s 9/11,’ which means that any debate over how to deal with terrorism is largely over in Canada. As in the U.S. after its 9/11, the Canadian political right (Harper et al) and the Canadian National Security State with strong ties to the U.S. NSS, now has the upper hand in the central democratic debate over balancing civil liberties and public safety. They obviously want to swing the pendulum even further toward the ‘security fix’ at the expense of individual rights in both Canada and, given U.S.-Canada geo-political ties, even further in the U.S. Meanwhile, further evidence that there is no ‘security fix’ to terrorism is abundant for all who want to see.

“The same day the attack on the Canadian Parliament (said by U.S. security experts to be inadequately ‘secure’) occurred…another individual compromised White House security just weeks after its security was ‘fixed’ once again. In both countries, neither government nor corporate media are encouraging Canadian or U.S. citizens to question this militarized approach to terrorism. Nor are Canadians being encouraged to ask the ‘why’ of these two latest attacks beyond ‘those crazy Muslims hate us for our freedoms.’ It’s as if ‘peace-loving’ Canada’s decision to wage a brutal war on Afghanistan and now ISIS has no connection to the ‘why’ of these attacks.”

Ebola: Are U.S. Bioweapons Labs the Solution, or the Problem?

On Friday, the New York Times published the article “White House to Cut Funding for Risky Biological Study,” which states: “Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents, the White House announced Friday that it would temporarily halt all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.” The piece quotes Richard H. Ebright, “a molecular biologist and bioweapons expert at Rutgers University, [who has] argued that the long history of accidental releases of infectious agents from research labs made such work extremely risky and unwise to perform in the first place. Dr. Ebright called Friday’s announcement ‘an important, albeit overdue, step.’” See USA Today from Aug. 17: “Hundreds of Bioterror Lab Mishaps Cloaked in Secrecy.”

MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @NassMeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog. She has debunked government claims from early on in the Ebola crisis, including the slowness of the response in Africa and the notion that U.S. hospitals were prepared. Her most recent post is “Is This A New, More Virulent Ebola?” She also suggests “examining the possibility of converting the excess BL4 labs to treatment centers for Ebola.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, Boyle drafted the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which is the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention. His books include Biowarfare and Terrorism.

He said today: “If, as some in the Liberian press are claiming, this outbreak of Ebola is from one of the labs in west Africa run by the CDC and Tulane University, it could be an unprecedented human disaster. That could mean it was GMOed into a ‘Fluebola.’ Recall that the 2001 weaponized anthrax attacks were traced to a U.S. government lab. It’s incredibly odd that this outbreak occurred 1,000 miles from past outbreaks and it is clearly more easily transmissible.

“Scientists like Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin have been ‘researching’ Ebola for years. Since the anthrax attacks, some $79 billion has been spent. But we still don’t have a vaccine ready to protect us. These labs have actually spent government money, including from the National Institutes of Health, to make viruses more deadly. The work done at these labs shouldn’t be curtailed or temporarily suspended as the administration seems to be talking about, but stopped. This work is criminal. It violates the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which I wrote. It was passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress and states:

“‘Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both. There is extraterritorial Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section committed by or against a national of the United States.’

“After the law was passed, the government has claimed that it’s not violating it because it is creating these more deadly viruses to help protect against them should they develop elsewhere. It’s a ridiculous argument to get around the blanket prohibition in the law. This policy has been a catastrophe waiting to happen — a statistical certainty.”

BARRY KISSIN, barrykissin at hotmail.com
Kissin is a researcher, lawyer and activist in Frederick, Maryland, where Fort Detrick, a major facility of the United States Army Medical Command installation, is based. He has closely monitored the expansion of the facility. He said today: “The fear is that the government is doing things in the biolabs in west Africa that it might be reluctant to do at Fort Detrick and other facilities inside the U.S.”

In 2010, Kissin wrote a piece that noted: “The [Frederick] News-Post has published articles that reflect Fort Detrick has already aerosolized plague, and looks forward to a new facility, only recently announced, that plans on aerosolizing Ebola. Why in the world would we be aerosolizing plague and Ebola? The official answer is that this is necessary to the development of our defenses. Left out of the answer is the plain fact that these purported defenses are against ghastly threats that we ourselves are originating.”

Earlier in 2010, the Frederick News-Post reported in “New facility to test drugs, vaccines for FDA approval” that “George Ludwig, civilian deputy principal assistant for research and technology at Fort Detrick, said the project will represent a new level of research there. … Ludwig said researchers at the facility will likely start out working on vaccines for filoviruses such as Ebola and Marburg, as well as new anthrax vaccines. … The facility will have the capability to produce viruses in aerosolized form that would simulate a potential biological attack on the test animals. Ludwig said aerosol is the means of exposure researchers are most concerned with given its implications to battlefield and homeland defense.” [This particular facility was never built.]

See from the Global Security Newswire: “Obama Seeks $260M Boost for Protecting African Disease Labs” from 2011, which notes: “The Obama administration has requested $260 million in fiscal 2012 funding to bolster protective measures at African research sites that house lethal disease agents, the Examiner reported on Sunday.” The piece noted they “hold potential biological-weapon agents such as anthrax, Ebola and Rift Valley fever.” From Vice in 2013: “Why the U.S. Is Building a High-Tech Bubonic Plague Lab in Kazakhstan.”

See Guardian piece from earlier this year: “Scientists condemn ‘crazy, dangerous’ creation of deadly airborne flu virus” about the work of Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin, who has worked on Ebola and reconstituted the Spanish Flu, which killed over 50 million people in 1918.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just ran a positivity piece on Kawaoka on Oct. 17: “UW-Madison scientist Kawaoka on front lines in fight against Ebola.”

See overview article from 2007 from in The Humanist: “America the Beautiful’s Germ Warfare Rash.”

See 2006 piece in the Washington Post: “The Secretive Fight Against Bioterror,” which states: “The government is building a highly classified facility to research biological weapons, but its closed-door approach has raised concerns. … “‘If we saw others doing this kind of research, we would view it as an infringement of the bioweapons treaty,’ said Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholar and weapons expert at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. ‘You can’t go around the world yelling about Iranian and North Korean programs — about which we know very little — when we’ve got all this going on.’”

See “Russia Rejects Bioweapons Talk in U.S. Congress as ‘Propaganda’” from May 14, 2014. The piece states: “Russia issued the remarks in reaction to a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, where University of Maryland senior scholar Milton Leitenberg said the existence of a Russian biological-arms program cannot be ruled out because Moscow does not permit outside access to key facilities of concern. According to the ministry, ‘It is surprising that certain representatives of the U.S. establishment continue demanding unilateral access to the Russian biological facilities amid the U.S. refusal from such a fair and clear [verification] mechanism. Such demands are inappropriate and unacceptable.’”

Myths About Syria and Iraq War

CHARLES GLASS, charlesmglass at yahoo.com, @CGlassArticles
Glass was recently in Syria. He was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and authored the book Tribes with Flags: Adventure and Kidnap in Greater Syria. He just wrote the piece “In the Syria We Don’t Know” for the New York Review of Books.

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net
Erlich’s newest book is just out — Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect, (foreword by Noam Chomsky). His most recent piece is “10 Myths About Obama’s Latest War,” which states: “In justifying air attacks on Syria on Sept. 23, President Barack Obama said, ‘We will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.’

“I saw firsthand the tens of thousands of Yazidis forced to flee Islamic State fighters. IS is a vicious, un-Islamic, ultra-right-wing group that poses a real threat to the people of Syria and Iraq. But those people will defeat IS, not the U.S., whose motives are widely questioned in the region. IS poses no more of a terrorist threat to the American people than al-Qaida and its offshoots.

“In fact, within a matter of weeks, the Obama administration admitted that IS posed little terrorist threat to the U.S. mainland and focused instead on a heretofore-unknown group that the U.S. calls Khorosan. Now evidence is emerging that the Khorosan threat was exaggerated in order to justify expanding the bombing to Syria.”

NYT: Obama Could Reaffirm Bush-Era Torture

The New York Times reported on Sunday: “Obama Could Reaffirm a Bush-Era Reading of a Treaty on Torture.”

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 and writes the “Right to Know” column for ExposeFacts.org. She just wrote: “For some reason, the NYT decided to bury this article from Charlie Savage on page A21. It explains that the Obama administration is debating internally whether to overturn Obama’s ban against cruelty (which is also mandated by the Detainee Treatment Act). Some intelligence lawyers, apparently, believe Obama’s torture ban and the DTA are too limiting. [From the article:]

        ’It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal         obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed         the deliberations on the condition of anonymity. …

        ’State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation.         Doing so would require no policy changes, since Mr. Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that         forbade cruel interrogations anywhere and made it harder for a future administration to return to torture.

        ’But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal         obligations on the United States’ actions abroad. They say they need more time to study whether it         would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime         detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts         have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.’

“There were remarkable amounts of denial in response to this, from people who seem totally unaware of the kind of practices — that appear to include isolation, sleep deprivation, food manipulation, and other forms of coercion — currently used by High Value Interrogation Group [HIG], the inter-agency group used to interrogate terrorist suspects. And this post from David Luban, which lays out some of the loopholes the government might be using to engage in abuse, misses a few.

“We know, for example, that there are two OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinions that say Presidents don’t have to change the text of Executive Orders they choose to ignore, meaning Obama could ignore his torture ban ‘legally.’ There’s also the Appendix M OLC opinion that has approved whatever DOD wants to sneak into the sometimes classified appendix in advance. …”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com
Cohn, a professor of human rights at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse.

She said today: “The Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has ratified, also bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Yet President Obama is apparently considering whether to adopt the Bush administration’s erroneous claim that the torture treaty only prohibits such treatment within the United States. This would be a cynical attempt to limit liability of U.S. officials for their cruel treatment of people abroad.”

Also, see, from OpenTheGovernment.org, the recently released report: “The Impact of Executive Branch Secrecy On The United States’ Compliance With The Convention Against Torture And Other Cruel, Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment Or Punishment.” [PDF]

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