Posts tagged obama
Netanyahu says Israel won’t need U.S. OK to hit Iran
JERUSALEM — Israeli aircraft and Gaza rocket squads traded strikes across the border on Thursday as the Israeli prime minister blamed Iranfor the violence from the Palestinian territory.
Benjamin Netanyahu, going a step further in his warnings to Iran, hinted that Israel didn’t need Washington’s blessing to go ahead and attack Iran’s suspect nuclear program.
Thursday’s cross-border violence tested a shaky truce Israel and Gaza militants reached this week to halt a four-day flare-up in fighting. Since then, sporadic rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes have persisted.
Israeli aircraft struck two militant sites in Gaza before dawn Thursday in response to rocket fire a day earlier. Gaza gunmen retaliated by launching two rockets at Israel by midday, police said.
No injuries were reported on either side.
In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu accused Iran of arming, financing and training Gaza militants, and giving them their marching orders. “Gaza is Iran,” he declared.
Israel considers Iran to be its most fearsome enemy, in large part because it is convinced Tehran is developing atomic weapons technology, despite its claims its nuclear program is peaceful.
In the U.S. last week, where he met with President Obama, Mr. Netanyahu was markedly more vocal about Israel’s willingness to attackIran’s program, alone if necessary, though he said no decision had been made on whether to strike.
On Wednesday, he ratcheted up the tough talk, suggesting Israel would be ready to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities even if the U.S. objected.
“Israel has never left its fate to others, not even the best of its friends,” he said, citing Israel’s 1981 attack on an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor, which at the time was condemned by the U.S.
Also Thursday, rights activists said the health of a Palestinian detainee who has been on a hunger strike for a month is deteriorating.
Hana Shalabi, 30, has refused food since her arrest by Israel on Feb. 16. She is being held without formal charges in so-called administrative detention and is demanding to be released immediately.
A doctor from Israel’s branch of Physicians for Human Rights examined her this week and reported advanced muscle atrophy and wasting, along with severe dizziness and muscle pain, especially in her chest and back.
Israel Prisons Authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said Ms. Shalabi’s condition is “relatively OK.” An independent ethics committee discussed her case this week and decided against force-feeding her, Ms. Weizman said, adding that Ms. Shalabi remains in her cell. source – Washington Post
Obama Re-Election Credited With Burst of Gun Sales
Gun sales are booming across Texas, and some buyers say their growing belief that President Barack Obama’s re-election is inevitable is fueling their race to bear more arms.
So brisk have sales been that the rush has created a nationwide shortage of firearms and ammunition, the Star-Telegram reports. Fort Worth gun shop owner DeWayne Irwin said the rush is similar to one seen shortly after the president’s 2008 election.
Alan Korwin, author of nine books on gun laws and operator of a gun laws website, tells the Star-Telegram that some are worried that Obama’s re-election would embolden a major gun control push.
Korwin said people worry that if Obama wins “he will go after firearms in a way we have never seen before.” He added the belief is fueled by perceived disarray in the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. source – NBC Ft. Worth
Talk about sending a message! Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu today had the perfect smile, a dignified air, total respect for the office of the US president, and he opened his mouth and ‘delivered a message’ to President Obama. And that message was this – “we will strike Iran with you or without you”. Period.
From the Washington Free Beacon: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Obama that Israel would decide for itself whether to strike Iran.
“My supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate,” Netanyahu told Obama.
In a sit-down earlier today with the president in the Oval Office, Netanyahu pushed back against the administration’s repeated attempts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran. “Israel must reserve the right to defend itself and after all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state to, restore to the Jewish people control of our destiny,” said Netanyahu, who is meeting with the president in advance of his speech later today before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.
Israel reserves the right to strike Iran if need be, Netanyahu said.
Obama, in a speech to AIPAC on Sunday morning, chastised those engaged in “loose talk of war” with Iran and urged for a policy of diplomacy towards Iran, which continues to enrich uranium and is suspected of clandestinely building a nuclear weapon.
The administration has also been pressuring Israel to hold off on an attack against Iran’s nuclear sites, arguing that economic sanctions require time to take hold.
AIPAC Executive Howard Kohr flatly rejected this assumption earlier today, when he told conference delegates that the U.S. “must increase the pressures on the mullahs to the point where they fear failure to comply will lead to their downfall.”
In advance of today’s meeting with Netanyahu, Obama has faced renewed criticism from pro-Israel groups over his handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, including the release of Daylight a documentary produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel highlighting his administration’s strained ties with the closest U.S. ally in the Middle East. source - Washington Free Beacon
One day before the AIPAC conference kicks off in Washington, an anti-Obama pro-Israel group is widening its criticism of President Barack Obama’s record on Israel — while the White House defends its treatment of the relationship.
The trailer for a new 30-minute video, entitled “Daylight: The Story of Obama and Israel,” cuts together clips of Obama quotes and outside commentary to put forth the narrative that Obama has made statements and taken actions as president that have put him out of step with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters.
“We believe that that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines,” Obama is shown saying, a reference to his May, 2011 speech, where he for the first time explicitly defined U.S. policy as supporting the 1967 borders with agreed swaps as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
The ad goes beyond the Israeli issue to suggest that the president is too solicitous of Muslim concerns. The end of the trailer shows Obama saying, “I want to make sure we end before the call to prayer,” a clip from his town hall meeting with Turkish students in Istanbul in April 2009.”He didn’t quite have a full grasp of what the full region looks like,” conservative journalist Lee Smith is shown saying in the video. “This is not how you treat an ally.”
The video was produced by the group the Emergency Committee for Israel, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on its pre-AIPAC publicity campaign, including posters and billboards all over Washington that question Obama’s commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“He says a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Do you believe him?” the posters read. Then, next to a picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it says, “Do they?”
ECI is run by executive director Noah Pollak and Michael Goldfarb, a former McCain-Palin staffer now working at the consulting firm Orion Strategies and as chairman of the board of theWashington Free Beacon, an new conservative website.
“Obama says a nuclear Iran is unacceptable,” Pollak told The Cable today. “We hope he means what he says, but the recent statements from his administration, his contentious relationship with the Israeli government, and his consistent efforts to weaken congressional sanctions don’t inspire confidence.”
The ECI board is comprised of Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer, who has endorsed Rick Santorum, and Rachel Abrams, the wife of former NSC official Elliott Abrams, and the author of the controversial Israel-focused blog ”Bad Rachel.” The group is also the only Israel-focused advocacy organization to have formed a SuperPAC in the run up to the 2012 election.
As part of its pre-AIPAC activity, ECI took out a full page ad in the New York Times yesterday calling out donors for supporting two liberal advocacy organizations in Washington, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, and accusing those donors of “funding bigotry and anti-Israel extremism.”
Pollak also said that the video, billboards, and ads happen to refute a pre-AIPAC interview Obama gave to The Atlantic, in which Obama expressed frustration with the attacks coming from conservative lawmakers and groups like ECI that claim he is not pro-Israel.
“Every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept,” Obama said. “Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they’ve had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?”
“Obama said today he doesn’t understand why there are questions about his record of support for Israel,” Pollak said. “We think this movie will set the record straight, and remind pro-Israel Americans of the facts of this administration’s failure to stand with Israel at some critical moments.” source – Foreign Policy
Blurred Line Between Espionage and Truth
Last Wednesday in the White House briefing room, the administration’s press secretary, Jay Carney, opened on a somber note, citing the deaths of Marie Colvin and Anthony Shadid, two reporters who had died “in order to bring truth” while reporting in Syria.
Jake Tapper, the White House correspondent for ABC News, pointed out that the administration had lauded brave reporting in distant lands more than once and then asked, “How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistle-blowers to court?”
He then suggested that the administration seemed to believe that “the truth should come out abroad; it shouldn’t come out here.”
Fair point. The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance “whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,” has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers.
The Espionage Act, enacted back in 1917 to punish those who gave aid to our enemies, was used three times in all the prior administrations to bring cases against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media. It has been used six times since the current president took office.
Setting aside the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who is accused of stealing thousands of secret documents, the majority of the recent prosecutions seem to have everything to do with administrative secrecy and very little to do with national security.
In case after case, the Espionage Act has been deployed as a kind of ad hoc Official Secrets Act, which is not a law that has ever found traction in America, a place where the people’s right to know is viewed as superseding the government’s right to hide its business.
In the most recent case, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who became a Democratic staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was charged under the Espionage Act with leaking information to journalists about other C.I.A. officers, some of whom were involved in the agency’s interrogation program, which included waterboarding.
For those of you keeping score, none of the individuals who engaged in or authorized the waterboarding of terror suspects have been prosecuted, but Mr. Kiriakou is in federal cross hairs, accused of talking to journalists and news organizations, including The New York Times.
Mr. Tapper said that he had not planned on raising the issue, but hearing Mr. Carney echo the praise for reporters who dug deep to bring out the truth elsewhere got his attention.
“I have been following all of these case, and it’s not like they are instances of government employees leaking the location of secret nuclear sites,” Mr. Tapper said. “These are classic whistle-blower cases that dealt with questionable behavior by government officials or its agents acting in the name of protecting America.”
Mr. Carney said in the briefing that he felt it was appropriate “to honor and praise the bravery” of Ms. Colvin and Mr. Shadid, but he did not really engage Mr. Tapper’s broader question, saying he could not go into information about specific cases. He did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.
In one of the more remarkable examples of the administration’s aggressive approach, Thomas A. Drake, a former employee of the National Security Agency, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act last year and faced a possible 35 years in prison.
His crime? When his agency was about to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a software program bought from the private sector intended to monitor digital data, he spoke with a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. He suggested an internally developed program that cost significantly less would be more effective and not violate privacy in the way the product from the vendor would. (He turned out to be right, by the way.)
He was charged with 10 felony counts that accused him of lying to investigators and obstructing justice. Last summer, the case against him collapsed, and he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor, of misuse of a government computer.
Jesselyn Radack, the director for national security and human rights at the Government Accountability Project, was one of the lawyers who represented him.
“The Obama administration has been quite hypocritical about its promises of openness, transparency and accountability,” she said. “All presidents hate leaks, but pursuing whistle-blowers as spies is heavy-handed and beyond the scope of the law.”
Mark Corallo, who served under Attorney General John D. Ashcroft during the Bush administration, told Adam Liptak of The New York Times this month that he was “sort of shocked” by the number of leak prosecutions under President Obama. “We would have gotten hammered for it,” he said.
As Mr. Liptak pointed out, it has become easier to ferret out leakers in a digital age, but just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be.
These kinds of prosecutions can have ripples well beyond the immediate proceedings. Two reporters in Washington who work on national security issues said that the rulings had created a chilly environment between journalists and people who work at the various government agencies.
During a point in history when our government has been accused of sending prisoners to secret locations where they were said to have been tortured and the C.I.A. is conducting remote-controlled wars in far-flung places, it’s not a good time to treat the people who aid in the publication of critical information as spies.
And it’s worth pointing out that the administration’s emphasis on secrecy comes and goes depending on the news. Reporters were immediately and endlessly briefed on the “secret” operation that successfully found and killed Osama bin Laden. And the drone program in Pakistan and Afghanistan comes to light in a very organized and systematic way every time there is a successful mission.
There is plenty of authorized leaking going on, but this particular boat leaks from the top. Leaks from the decks below, especially ones that might embarrass the administration, have been dealt with very differently. source – New York Times
Despite public denials, military preparations for intervention in the horrendous Syrian crisis are quietly afoot in Washington, Paris, Rome, London and Ankara. President Barack Obama is poised for a final decision after the Pentagon submits operational plans for protecting Syrian rebels and beleaguered populations from the brutal assaults of Bashar Assad’s army, debkafile’s Washington sources disclose.
This process is also underway in allied capitals which joined the US in the Libyan operation that ended Muammar Qaddafi’s rule in August, 2011. They are waiting for a White House decision before going forward.
In Libya, foreign intervention began as an operation to protect the Libyan population against its ruler’s outrageous crackdown on dissent. It was mandated by UN Security Council. There is no chance of this in the Syrian case because it will be blocked by a Russian veto. Therefore, Western countries are planning military action of limited scope outside the purview of the world body, possibly on behalf of “Friends of Syria,” a group of 80 world nations which meets for the first time in Tunis Friday, Feb. 24, to hammer out practical steps for terminating the bloodbath pursued by the Assad regime.
The foreign ministers and senior officials – Russia has excluded itself – will certainly be further galvanized into action by the tragic deaths of two notable journalists Wednesday, Feb. 22, on the 19th day of the shelling of Homs.
Preparations for the event are taking place at the Foreign Office in London. Wednesday, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: Governments around the world have the responsibility to act…and to redouble our efforts to stop the Assad regime’s despicable campaign of terror.”
Hague pointedly said nothing about removing the Syrian ruler. Nor did he spell out the efforts need to stop the campaign of terror. debkafile’s military sources note that he left these issues open because a decision by President Obama about if and how the US will act is pending until the Pentagon submits operational plans to Commander-in-Chief Obama.
The US president is also waiting for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s report on the mood at the Tunis conference. He wants to know in particular if Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the UAR will support US-led Western intervention in Syria, both politically and financially. source – DEBKA
UN seeks to silence the Internet
Like most people, it is likely that you have never heard of the ITU before now. So please allow us to get you up to speed. The ITU, or International Telecommunication Union, is a treaty-based organization under the direct control of the United Nations. As you will see in this WSJ article, there is a major push on right now to wreste control on the Internet from it’s current public domain, and place it under “international control” (read ‘censorship’). This current assualt starts February 27th, 6 days from today.
From WSJ: On Feb. 27, a diplomatic process will begin in Geneva that could result in a new treaty giving the United Nations unprecedented powers over the Internet. Dozens of countries, including Russia and China, are pushing hard to reach this goal by year’s end. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last June, his goal and that of his allies is to establish “international control over the Internet” through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a treaty-based organization under U.N. auspices.
If successful, these new regulatory proposals would upend the Internet’s flourishing regime, which has been in place since 1988. That year, delegates from 114 countries gathered in Australia to agree to a treaty that set the stage for dramatic liberalization of international telecommunications. This insulated the Internet from economic and technical regulation and quickly became the greatest deregulatory success story of all time.
Russia, China and their allies within the 193 member states of the ITU want to renegotiate the 1988 treaty to expand its reach into previously unregulated areas. Reading even a partial list of proposals that could be codified into international law next December at a conference in Dubai is chilling:
• Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;
• Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for “international” Internet traffic, perhaps even on a “per-click” basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;
• Impose unprecedented economic regulations such as mandates for rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated traffic-swapping agreements known as “peering.”
• Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;
• Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;
• Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices.
While precious time ticks away, the U.S. has not named a leader for the treaty negotiation. We must awake from our slumber and engage before it is too late. Not only do these developments have the potential to affect the daily lives of all Americans, they also threaten freedom and prosperity across the globe. source – Wall Street Journal