Daily Archives: February 12, 2014

Sen. Paul announces ‘historic’ class-action suit over NSA spying

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Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday announced what he described as one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history, taking President Obama and top intelligence officials to court over National Security Agency surveillance.

“This, we believe, will be a historic lawsuit,” the Kentucky Republican said. The suit, joined by conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

It alleges that the NSA program that sweeps up and stores massive amounts of telephone “metadata” — which includes where and when calls are made, but not the contents of the calls — violates the Fourth Amendment. The suit asks the court to rule the program unconstitutional and forbid the government from continuing it.

“There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records would be taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant and without individualization,” Paul said, at a press conference in Washington.

He said hundreds of thousands of people have joined, and predicted the suit could “conceivably represent hundreds of millions of people who have phone lines in this country.”

The administration has insisted that Americans’ privacy is protected under NSA programs, and Obama recently announced a set of proposed reforms to rein in NSA surveillance.

“We remain confident that the program is legal, as at least 15 judges have previously found,” a Justice Department spokesperson said Wednesday, referring to prior court decisions in separate cases.

But the lawsuit argues that the bulk metadata that is routinely collected nevertheless “reveals a wealth of detail” about Americans’ personal and professional associations “that are ordinarily unknown to the government.”

The suit named Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander, and FBI Director James Comey.

Sen. Paul announces ‘historic’ class-action suit over NSA spying | Fox News.

Lebanese army seizes top al Qaeda-linked militant

Lebanese army soldiers stand near a booby-trapped car loaded with explosives in the Corniche al-Mazraa district of central Beirut

Lebanese army soldiers stand near a booby-trapped car loaded with explosives in the Corniche al-Mazraa district of central Beirut February 12, 2014.

(Reuters) – Lebanon’s army on Wednesday arrested a senior al Qaeda-linked militant described by officials as a “mastermind of car bombs” hitting Shi’ite areas in recent months, triggering a major security sweep in the country.

Security sources said the arrest of Naim Abbas, who confessed to his organizational role, helped uncover two booby-trapped cars, two weapons depots and led to the arrest of several jihadi-linked people.

They added his arrest would also help uncover more radical jihadi cells that have been targeting army posts and Shi’ite areas under the control of the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah group.

The surge in violence in Lebanon is linked to the three-year conflict in neighboring Syria, with sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims rising on both sides of the border.

The security sources said Abbas played a role in four recent car bomb attacks in southern Beirut and two more in the mostly Shi’ite town of Hermel in eastern Lebanon, all Hezbollah strongholds. Scores of civilians were killed in the attacks.

Abbas’s capture is the second major one after another al Qaeda-linked leader, Majid al-Majid, was seized in December. He died in custody due to kidney failure.

“He (Abbas) drove the suicide bombers to the southern suburbs. He is the mastermind of car bombs, he is as important as Majid al-Majid,” another source said.

Hours after Abbas’s arrest, security forces found a car loaded with 100 kg of explosives in the Corniche al-Mazraa district of central Beirut and another one with explosives near the town of Arsal, on the frontier with Syria.

WEAPONS DEPOT

A Lebanese army statement said three women were inside the second car, which had come from Yabroud in Syria where the Syrian army is preparing an offensive to flush out rebels. The women’s task was to deliver the car to potential suicide bombers, the statement said.

“It was he (Abbas) who confessed and gave the location of these two cars. So far two cars have been discovered but many more will follow,” a security source told Reuters.

The army later raided two villages in southern Beirut, Saadeyat and Debeyi, where it confiscated dozens of 107mm rockets, security sources added.

The army also said it had had Abbas under surveillance for some time after receiving information about his involvement in recent bombings.

Abbas, a Palestinian, was snatched from his house in a Beirut suburb in a special operation led by the Lebanese army in the early hours of Wednesday.

Lebanon, which is still recovering from its own 1975-1990 civil war, has been struggling to stem the spillover of violence from Syria.

Hezbollah has sent fighters and advisers to help its ally President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shi’ite-derived Alawite minority, against mainly Sunni rebels who have become dominated by Islamist fighters.

Groups in Lebanon linked to Al-Qaeda have accused Hezbollah of interfering in Syria and said they will launch attacks against the group.

Russian president to meet Sisi, in Moscow Thursday

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MOSCOW : Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Egyptian Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy at the presidential palace Thursday, said well-informed sources.

Sisi and Fahmy start on Wednesday an official visit to Russia for talks as part of 2+2 meetings aiming at boosting cooperation between Egypt and Russia.

The Putin meeting will be preceded by a four-way meeting grouping Sisi, Fahmy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Foreign Ministry’s guest house.

The four will hold a press conference after the meeting.

The first 2+2 meeting was held in Cairo on November 14.

News reported that the purpose of the visit was the conclusion of a $4 billion arms deal

In October the U.S. froze a large portion of the $1.5 billion in aid that it gives to Egypt annually, including a substantial amount of military aid, presumably in response to political turmoil and violence in the country.

El-Sissi has been rising in popularity as a public figure in Egypt after he led the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, amid a wave of mass street protests. He is also rumored to be a candidate for the country’s presidential election, expected in April.

I know what you did last summer, Condoleezza

At the Bush Center’s conference on Human Freedom,on May 26, 2011, Condoleezza Rice, presence of President George W. Bush : United States prepared for the January 25 revolution which led Egypt to chaos and desolation under the guise of democracy

تركيا .. موجة جديدة من الإقالات تطال 166 قاضيا

أثارت موجة جديدة من الإقالات طالت الثلاثاء 11 فبراير/شباط 166 قاضيا إهتمام وسائل الإعلام التركية في ظل فضيحة الفساد التي هزت حكومة رجب طيب اردوغان منذ منتصف شهر ديسمبر/كانون الأول من العام الماضي

وأصدر المجلس الأعلى التركي للقضاة والمدعين قراره بإقالة 166 قاضيا بعد الإشتباه في تورطهم بقضايا فساد، بينهم بعض المدعين المهمين في اسطنبول وانقرة وازمير، حسب صحيفة حريت التركية

ووفق وسائل الإعلام المحلية فإنه تم معاقبة نحو 6000 من عناصر الشرطة ومئات القضاة منذ كشف فضيحة الفساد التي شملت عشرات الاشخاص المقربين من السلطة. ويتهم اردوغان حلفاءه السابقين في جمعية الداعية فتح الله غولن التي تحضى بدعم العديد من العناصر في صفوف الشرطة والقضاء بالتلاعب بالتحقيقات في اطار “مؤامرة” لاسقاطه قبل الانتخابات البلدية المقررة في مارس/آذار والرئاسية في اغسطس/آب هذا العام

 

احمد ابو الغيط وزير خارجية مصر الاسبق يكشف المخطط الاميركى لإسقاط النظام المصري والسوري منذ 2005

وزير الخارجية المصري الأسبق أحمد أبو الغيط يتحدث عن زيارته الأولى لواشنطن في مطلع عام 2005 والتي وصفها بالأسوأ في تاريخ العلاقات الثنائية منذ حرب أكتوبر 1973. حينها قيل لأبو الغيط بشكل صريح إن النظام في سوريا يجب أن يسقط وأن على مصر إرسال قواتها إلى العراق وأفغانستان وإلا واجهت عواقب وخيمة. ثم يشير أبو الغيط إلى زيارته العاجلة فور عودته من الولايات المتحدة إلى سوريا لتحذير القيادة السورية من المخطط الأمريكي، وكان الرئيس المصري حسني مبارك قد نصح نظيره السوري بالتخلص من بعض أركان السلطة القدامى أمثال فاروق الشرع وإظهار المرونة أمام الأمريكيين تفاديا لاستهدافه بشكل مباشر أو غير مباشر، لكون الأمريكيين أصبحوا على الحدود، وماذا كان رد الرئيس السوري على هذا الاقتراح. أخيرا يشير أبو الغيط إلى كلمات الرئيس حسني مبارك “المتغطي بالأمريكان عريان”. التي صدمته والتي عكست موقفه الحقيقي من الأمريكيين ومن يحالفهم

شاهد اعتراف كونداليزا رايس بصناعة اميركا لما سمى بثورة 25 يناير

شاهد اعتراف كونداليزا رايس بصناعة اميركا لما سمى بثورة 25 يناير

مجلس النواب الأمريكي يوافق على رفع سقف الدين العام للولايات المتحدة

وافق مجلس النواب الأمريكي، مساء أمس الثلاثاء 11 فبراير/شباط على رفع سقف الدين العام للولايات المتحدة، وذلك في تصويت شمل أعضاء الحزبين الجمهوري والديموقراطي. وصوت 221 نائباً لمصلحة المشروع، مقابل معارضة 201، من دون فرض أية شروط، وأحال مشروع القانون إلى مجلس الشيوخ الذي يفترض أن يصادق عليه قبل حلول 23 فبراير/شباط الجاري

 وشكل التصويت علامة فارقة في واشنطن على خلفية التجاذبات بين الحزبين حول هذه المسألة، حيث تصدت أغلبية من الجمهوريين مراراً لرفع سقف الدين والإجراءات ذات الصلة بالموازنة

رحب البيت الأبيض، بتمرير مجلس النواب مشروع القانون، ورأى في الأمر خطوة إيجابية، مؤكداً أن الاقتصاد الأمريكي يمضي قدماً لكن ثمة أمور كثيرة لا بد من القيام بها. وأشار إلى أنه بإمكان الكونغرس أن يبدأ برفع الحد الأدنى للأجور، ويمكنه أن يعيد ضمانات البطالة الطارئة لنحو 1.7 مليون مواطن أمريكي يبحثون يومياً عن العمل ويحتاجون لما يعيلون به عائلاتهم، إلى جانب اتخاذ خطوات إضافية لتعزيز الاقتصاد واستعادة الفرص لكل الأمريكيين

 

Insight: In Ukraine standoff, echoes of U.S.-Russia Cold War tensions

Anti-government protesters are seen at the barricades in Kiev

Anti-government protesters are seen at the barricades in Kiev February 11, 2014.

(Reuters) – After Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine last July, U.S. diplomats got a private recap of the message he delivered behind closed doors to the country’s leaders. Ukraine, Putin warned, would not be allowed to stray from Moscow’s orbit.

Putin’s blunt talk was an unexpected sign of how hard Moscow would fight Western influence on Ukraine, U.S. officials say, prompting Washington and European capitals to step up their engagement with Ukrainian government and opposition forces.

Seven months later, the United States and Russia are locked in a Cold War-style test of wills over the strategically located country of 45 million that has been racked by anti-government protests and sporadic violence.

U.S.-Russia tensions and mutual accusations of meddling are making it more difficult to find a solution in Ukraine, where the U.S. fears violence may escalate, and is one of the clearest signs yet that U.S. President Barack Obama has made scant progress improving relations with Washington’s former adversary.

In Ukraine, former U.S. officials and analysts say, Russia holds most of the cards, including close proximity, energy supplies that Kiev depends on and a promised $15 billion bailout it has used to woo Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich away from an EU trade deal.

Obama, reluctant to act assertively in what Russia has long considered its sphere of influence, has limited direct leverage and few good options.

But Washington has decided to use the Ukraine crisis to take a stand, at least diplomatically, against what the White House regards as a “worrying and troubling” pattern of Russian behavior toward its neighbors, a senior U.S. official said.

“Ukraine is going to be a test” of improved U.S.-Russian relations, said the official, who was not authorized to talk publicly. The administration has a realistic understanding of what is possible with Russia, after early enthusiasm about the possibility of working together. “We understand the shape and the dimensions of the Russia we’re dealing with, and it makes it tougher to find that cooperation.”

The more activist American policy was unintentionally on display last week in the leaked secret recording of a phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

The two are heard speaking intensely about the formation of an interim, reform-minded government and treating Moscow like an adversary. “You can be pretty sure that if (a deal for a new government) does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it,” Pyatt says.

U.S. officials have not directly blamed the leak on Russia, which has denied its involvement. But the audio clip was first posted on Twitter by Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a diplomatic source said.

The leak also revealed U.S.-European tensions over how assertive to be in the crisis, with Nuland dismissing what American officials regard as the EU’s cautious approach with profanity.

U.S. officials say the damage to trans-Atlantic relations was fleeting, and that polls taken in the days since show a rise in Ukrainians’ approval of the United States.

THE ‘RESET’ BUTTON IS OFF

The officials say they are trying to avoid any direct confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, and despite veiled threats from Moscow see little chance of Russian military intervention there.

But privately, some describe Putin’s determination to keep Ukraine in Moscow’s orbit in stark terms, worrying it suggests a desire to redraw European borders and reopen agreements reached after the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse.

Obama’s attempt to “reset” relations with Russia in his first term, while it had some successes including a new nuclear arms reduction deal and cooperation on Afghanistan, never produced enduring trust.

Washington and Moscow are at loggerheads over Syria, where Russia backs President Bashar al-Assad. The two countries are also at odds over Putin’s crackdown on internal dissent and U.S. missile defense plans, which Russia feels threatens its national security. The relationship was further strained when Russia granted asylum to former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified documents that have caused both security concerns and political problems for Obama.

Obama, in a joint White House news conference with French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday, took a swipe at Moscow for what he said was its blocking of measures to help starving civilians in Syria’s three-year-old civil war.

For the Sochi Winter Olympics, which Putin is touting as a major milestone in Russia’s post-Soviet revival, senior U.S. officials stayed home. Obama’s delegation contained prominent gay American athletes, a diplomatic rebuke to Russian laws such as one that bans so-called gay propaganda.

Thomas Graham, who was senior Russia adviser to President George W. Bush, said the Obama administration is trying to show friends and foes that it is relevant in Eastern Europe at a time when U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated.

“The administration felt that it had to stand up and show that it had a spine on these issues,” Graham said.

But he and others said the United States is not in a strong position to influence the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis.

“The strength of motivation is on the Russian side,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine now at the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank.

“It’s a hard problem,” Pifer said. If the United States and EU promised cash-strapped Ukraine $15 billion, “Putin would say fine, here’s $25 billion. He’s in a position to outbid us on this one.”

U.S. officials say they have levers of their own. Brussels and Washington have tried to sway Yanukovich with a trade deal with the EU, the world’s largest market, and promises of billions of dollars in International Monetary Fund loans if Ukraine undertakes economic reforms.

Yanukovich is under pressure from street demonstrators, many of whom want Ukraine to have a European, not Russian, orientation.

Although Europeans are unenthusiastic, the U.S. government is also considering expanding sanctions against individuals responsible for violence against the protesters who have occupied Kiev’s Maidan square since late November.

NO COUNTRY IN SIX MONTHS?

The protests have spread from Kiev to other parts of the country. U.S. engagement accelerated after the crisis turned deadly on January 22, current and former U.S. officials and a congressional aide said.

Nuland met Yanukovich in Kiev late last week to urge a de-escalation of tensions and constitutional reforms, reflecting U.S. fears that Ukraine could be engulfed in countrywide civil unrest if the crisis is not solved.

The U.S. diplomat is said to have replied to Yanukovich’s proposal for a six-month time frame to study constitutional reforms by warning him that, in six months, he might not have a country to govern.

This is an argument that Washington is also making to Russia as it seeks to overcome Putin’s view of Ukraine as a zero-sum game in which Kiev’s greater economic engagement with the West can only come at Moscow’s expense.

U.S. officials fear, however it will fall on deaf ears. Putin sees Ukraine as crucial to his dream of a Eurasian customs union to rival the EU and the United States.

“Putin lays out an agenda for wanting to sit at the table with the other great powers” but then reverts to “throwback” policies toward former Soviet satellites, the senior U.S. official said. “The Russian leadership wants to have its cake and eat it too.”

Insight: In Ukraine standoff, echoes of U.S.-Russia Cold War tensions | Reuters.

Nothing personal? Obama says no nation avoids US spying

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome French President Francois Hollande to the White House for a State Dinner in Washington February 11, 2014

Ally or not, the US does not have an agreement with any country that would prevent espionage in light of national security concerns, President Obama said on Tuesday, prior to an official state dinner with a European head of state.

During a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande, Obama was asked whether his selection of France for the first state visit of his second term as president signalled a post-spying agreement with America’s European ally. Through documents supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, it was revealed that the NSA spied on French citizens and the internal communications of France’s foreign ministry and diplomats.

“There’s no country where we have a no-spy agreement,” Obama answered.

The US has long worked on global surveillance operations in conjunction with the other members of the so-called Five Eyes contingency: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Yet even the Five Eyes countries have not committed to avoid spying on one another.

Obama went on to highlight the changes he has ordered US agencies to make regarding direct surveillance of foreign leaders.

In announcing those changes in January, Obama said that the US is the “world’s only superpower” and must continue to conduct operations allies are not able to accomplish on their own.

“We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective,” he said, “but heads of state and governments with whom we work closely . . . should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners.”

The US government “will continue to gather information about the intentions” of foreign governments, Obama said. Yet he also promised the NSA “will not monitor the communications of heads of state” atop the ranks of allied partners unless there are compelling national security purposes at stake.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would be subject to reform as well, Obama announced, allowing the US to intercept the communications of overseas targets with important information without putting as many Americans and foreign persons incidentally targeted under the looking glass.

Speaking after Obama on Tuesday, Hollande said the two nations had put the controversy behind them, though he said foreign citizens’ privacy must be respected on some level.

“Mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data,” Hollande said.

There has been no indication to date that Hollande was the target of any NSA spying.

“Following the revelations that appeared due to Snowden, we clarified things, Mr. Obama and myself, we clarified things. And then this was in the past,” Hollande added. “Mutual trust has been restored.”

Hollande’s restored faith in the Franco-American alliance comes just in time for Tuesday night’s state dinner at the White House. Included on the guest list for Tuesday’s banquet honoring Hollande is NSA Director Keith Alexander.

Nothing personal? Obama says no nation avoids US spying — RT USA.

Moscow, Cairo sign $2 billion weapons deal, financed by the Saudis,UAE

Egyptian Army chief Abdel Fatah Sisi, second left, speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Cairo on Nov. 14, 2013.

Egyptian Army chief Abdel Fatah Sisi, second left, speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Cairo on Nov. 14, 2013.

CAIRO — Egypt and Russia have concluded an agreement for a $2 billion weapons deal.

Officials said Cairo and the Kremlin concluded three months of negotiations for the sale of Russian helicopters and air defense systems to Egypt. They said the talks focused on financial issues, including repayment terms.

“All of the issues have been resolved, and formal contracts will be signed soon,” an official said.

The Egyptian newspaper Al Masri Al Yom said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to finance Russian arms exports to Cairo. In a report on Feb. 7, the independent daily cited Saudi and UAE assistance of nearly $10 billion to the new military-backed regime in Egypt.

The two Gulf kingdoms played a vital role in sealing the deal,” Al Masri, quoting a senior official, said.

On Feb. 10, Egypt unveiled a $4.9 billion economic stimulus package based on UAE aid. Officials said Egypt required $1 billion to import gasoline and natural gas.

In November 2013, visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov led strategic cooperation talks with Cairo that included military training and arms exports. At the time, officials said the Kremlin, amid a U.S. suspension of major arms deliveries, offered to sell Egypt air defense systems, helicopters, anti-tank guided missiles and the MiG-29 fighter-jet.

But officials said the talks became stuck over the question of Egyptian repayment. They said Moscow demanded guarantees of payment before any deal was announced.

Under the agreement, Russia would begin arms deliveries to Egypt over the next few months. Officials said the deal would be implemented in several stages.

“The official revealed that the first tranche of Russian weapons to Egypt will be delivered before mid-2014,” Al Masri quoted the senior official as saying. “The delivery and payments will both be phased.”

via Moscow, Cairo sign $2 billion weapons deal, financed by the Saudis, UAE | World Tribune.