Daily Archives: June 6, 2014

Hillary Clinton defends Obama on Bergdahl, says ‘it doesn’t matter’ how he was captured

Hillary Clinton talks with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. (Martin H. Simon/ABC)

Hillary Rodham Clinton defended President Obama’s decision to trade five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, adding that “it doesn’t matter” how Bergdahl fell into Taliban hands.

In her first television interview on her promotional book tour, Clinton, a former secretary of state and potential 2016 presidential candidate, told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer that Bergdahl should have been rescued regardless of the circumstances surrounding his captivity.

“If you look at what the factors were going into the decision, of course there are competing interests and values,” Clinton told Sawyer. “And one of our values is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It doesn’t matter how they ended up in a prisoner of war situation.”

As part of her media blitz to promote her forthcoming memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton sat down with Sawyer at Clinton’s Washington home Thursday. The interview will air in a one-hour primetime special on ABC next Monday at 9 p.m., although the network released Clinton’s Bergdahl comments Friday evening.

When Sawyer asked Clinton whether she thought Obama had made “a deal with the devil” by releasing Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl, Clinton responded, “I think this was a very hard choice, which is why I think my book is aptly named.”

The Obama administration has come under fire this week from Republicans and other critics who allege that the government gave up too much to rescue Bergdahl. Critics also have raised questions about Bergdahl’s loyalty and whether he had purposely deserted his post, resulting in his capture.

Sawyer asked Clinton, “It doesn’t matter?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Clinton replied. “We bring our people home.”

In her memoir, Clinton writes about early discussions within the Obama administration over rescuing Bergdahl. She writes that in every discussion, she and other administration officials “demanded” Bergdahl’s release, according to CBS News, which obtained an early copy of Clinton’s book.

But, Clinton adds in the book, “I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war.”

via Hillary Clinton defends Obama on Bergdahl, says ‘it doesn’t matter’ how he was captured.

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CIA joins social media, is immediately trolled

Though the US Central Intelligence Agency may use Facebook, Twitter, and the like to keep tabs on targets of interest, the spy agency has only now officially joined social media–a move hastened by an imposter who was using the agency’s name online.

The agency’s first tweet, which earned the CIA nearly 200,000 Twitter followers in just a few hours, was the appropriately sarcastic, “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.” There were already 40,000 followers after just a single hour online, with the agency’s debut on Facebook sparking a similar conversation on that platform.

“By expanding to these platforms, CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on the CIA’s mission, history, and other developments,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a press release Friday. “We have important insights to share, and we want to make sure that unclassified information about the agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission.”

The CIA admitted as far back as 2011 that its agents and employees regularly scan social media to spy on intelligence targets. It already had multiple accounts on Flickr and YouTube, but only debuted on Twitter Friday because it had spent months lobbying Twitter to stop someone else who was already using the @CIA handle.

“There was someone out there impersonating CIA via Twitter,” spokesperson K. Jordan Caldwell told NBC. “Earlier this year, CIA filed an impersonation complaint with Twitter and they secured the @CIA account for us, which is routine for government agencies. This has been a lengthy process. It’s been in the works for a long time.”

The poser wasn’t a member of the Syrian Electronic Army, or even a veteran of the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques, but the Cleveland Institute of Art, which was cursed with the same abbreviation as one of the most powerful cloak and dagger agencies in the world.

“We just deleted that one because it was kind of confusing,” Jessica Moore, the institute’s web manager, told the Wall Street Journal. “Some people would mention us in their tweets and they were clearly thinking they were talking with the ‘real CIA,’ the Central Intelligence Agency.”

If the CIA is used to infiltrating foreign governments and aiding assassinations, though, it was still unprepared for Twitter trolling. Tweets immediately began pouring into the agency’s timeline from all over the world. Whether it be journalists, comedians, companies, or conspiracy theorists, seemingly all of Twitter felt compelled to make a joke that had been made dozens of times before.

Certainly the most effective trolling so far has come from the New York Review of Books, which launched an assault on the CIA’s Twitter feed complete with the torture methods used by the CIA and the date each incident occurred.

Each of the flurry of tweets included a link to the 2009 NY Review of Boks article titled “US Torture. Voices from the Black Sites,” which “reveals for the first time the contents of a confidential Red Cross report about the CIA’s secret offshore prisons.” The link was unavailable for much of the afternoon Friday, most likely because the site in question was overwhelmed with the sudden amount of traffic that came from the hundreds of retweets and favorites.

Along with compelling the Cleveland Institute of Art to give up its Twitter moniker, the CIA’s debut on Twitter is also timely because it comes as a number of US government agencies have increasingly relied on social media to communicate with the public. The trend began a year ago after the Edward Snowden leak, when the National Security Agency sought to shift the conversation with its own Twitter account.

“Other US government departments have attempted to use social media not only to get out their message, but at times to actively combat America’s enemies in sometimes bizarre online spats,” explained Lee Ferran of ABC News. “The State Department‘s Think Again Turn Away Twitter account, for instance, directly engages in arguments with pro-jihadi computer users. Terrorist groups, like the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda-allied group Al-Shabab in Somalia, already have a robust social media presence, which they use to spread their own propaganda.”

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Flight MH370 families start fund to uncover truth about vanished jet

A Chinese relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays in front of candles.

Not satisfied with the lack of progress being made on locating Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, relatives of passengers are planning to launch a $5 million fundraising campaign aimed at triggering another investigation.

According to a report by USA Today, the campaign will seek $3 million to reward a whistleblower for coming forward with new information and $2 million for private investigators to look into any other leads that emerge.

The campaign has been dubbed “Reward MH370: The Search for the Truth,” and will officially launch on Monday through the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. Composed of families from the United States, Australia, France, India, and New Zealand, the campaign does not include the participation of Chinese or Malaysian families, whose relatives were the primary travelers on the plane.

As for why these families decided they needed to start such an effort, American Sarah Bajc – whose partner, Philip Wood, was on the plane when it disappeared – said it’s necessary considering the failure to locate the plan up to this point.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” Bajc told USA Today. “There is no credible evidence” the plane is somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. “I’m convinced that somebody is concealing something.”

Although Bajc is certainly not alone in feeling that way, these accusations have been denied by officials conducting the search.

“Nothing important is being concealed in any way,” said Angus Houston, the head of Australia’s joint agency managing the search. “My approach has always been to be as open as I could possibly be.”

Houston acknowledged that not all the information is out in public just yet, but that a complete review is underway and should be finished sometime in June.

Meanwhile, Malaysian officials have also denied that transparency is an issue, though the country’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein has stated that “requests made by next-of-kin and international media cannot be accommodated 100%.”

While Bajc is hopeful and believes outside action must be taken, she is also cautioning those who donate. Even if the campaign is fully funded, results are not guaranteed.

“Granted, $2 million in investigation services won’t go very far,” Bajc told USA Today. “Clearly, they’ve already spent $100 million, and they’ve gotten nothing. But we’re not going to approach it with boats in the ocean. We’re going to approach it with human intelligence.”

As far as the official search goes, the US Navy’s deputy director of ocean engineering Micheal Dean said at the end of May that the four pings believed to have been coming from MH370’s black box were actually coming from an unrelated source. As RT reported then, Dean said there was no evidence suggesting the pings came from the black boxes, and the international group charged with finding the plane halted its search for debris in the suspected area of the Indian Ocean.

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Released Taliban commander promises to return to fight Americans

Noorullah Noori, one of the five prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay detention center in the exchange for American Bowe Bergdahl.

A source close to one of the former Guantanamo Bay prisoners released last week by the United States claim he plans to travel back to Afghanistan to fight against American troops.

The former detainee, Noorullah Noori, is one of five suspected Taliban higher-ups freed by US President Barack Obama last week in exchange for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a 28-year-old American soldier who as captured by an Al-Qaeda linked group in 2009 while serving the US Army in Afghanistan.

A fellow militant and relative told NBC News that despite serving nearly 13 years at the infamous US military prison after he was captured shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Noori reportedly wants to once again fight against the American military.

Noori and four others were released last week in a prisoner swap for Bergdahl, and are reportedly now in Qatar. According to once-secret detainee assessment files authored by Pentagon officials and published by WikiLeaks in 2010, Noori was considered to be a high-risk Gitmo inmate of high intelligence value who ahead of his Dec. 2001 capture was the Taliban governor for the Balkh and Laghman provinces in Afghanistan and “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes.” As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, however, Noori’s name is absent from several war crimes reports conducted by the UN and other agencies.

Nevertheless, a Taliban commander told NBC that Noori “kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there” after he arrived in Qatar this week.

This still image provided on December 7, 2010 by IntelCenter shows the Taliban associated video production group Manba al-Jihad December 7, 2010 release of US Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (L), who has been held hostage by the Taliban since his disappearance from his unit on June 30, 2009.

We thought we may not see them again as once you land in the hands of Americans, it’s difficult to come out alive,” the source added, according to an article published on Friday by NBC. “But it was a miracle that Allah Almighty gave us Bergdahl and we got back our heroes.”

RT has reported throughout the week that the prisoner swap between the US and Taliban has infuriated portions of both the American public and political realm who disapprove of President Barack Obama’s decision to release five Gitmo detainees in exchange for a soldier who, according to other servicemen, deserted the Army while on assignment. A welcome home celebration scheduled in Bergdahl’s hometown upon news of his release has since been cancelled by local officials who say the small Idaho town isn’t equipped to handle the expected turnout of both supporters and protesters.

This combo photo shows (from left) Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Guantanamo detainees released by the Obama administration in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdah.

According to NBC’s source, all five former Gitmo detainees were being treated at a Qatari hospital as of Friday. Noori, who is believed to be in his late-40s, was having health issues as a result of the 12 years of incarceration, the source added.

The White House-brokered deal relinquished Noori, Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq in exchange for Bergdahl.

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Pentagon to send military advisers to Ukraine

A Ukrainian Antonov-26 plane burns after it was shot down by a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on June 6, 2014.

American military advisers will soon arrive in politically fractured Ukraine in a move the Pentagon says is designed to build “defense institutions” in the country, where nationalist forces continue saber-rattling against Russia.

In preparation for the consultations, US defense officials met with Kiev authorities earlier this week to discuss ways how the two countries “could strengthen our long-term defense cooperation to help Ukraine build highly effective armed forces and defense institutions,” Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez said, as quoted by Military Times.

The Pentagon considers sending its military advisers “a first step” toward helping to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through training, education, and assistance.”

“We are committed fully to getting the assistance to Ukraine as quickly as possible,” Lainez said.

Lainez’s statement follows President Barack Obama’s promise earlier this week that the US would provide Kiev additional military help which may include training of its law enforcement and army personnel.

The Pentagon spokeswoman asserted that Washington does not see a military solution to the Ukrainian crisis, after an armed coup forced out its president, Viktor Yanukovich, following Kiev’s decision to put on hold the association agreement with the EU over economic concerns.

“Our focus continues to be on supporting Ukraine economically and diplomatically,” Lainez said. “As the president has said, we do not see a military solution to this crisis. Throughout the review, we’re looking at items with the intent that whatever is approved will stabilize the situation in Ukraine.”

In the meantime, since March, the White House has approved more than $23 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

On June 4, Obama said that the US was providing additional $5 million aid for “the provision of body armor, night vision goggles and additional communications equipment.” The White House also said other aid for Ukraine included 300,000 ready-to-eat meals and financing for medical supplies, helmets, hand-held radios and other equipment.

Obama’s pledges to Ukraine, at the same time, came on the heel of his vows to invest $1 billion in stepping up the US military presence in Eastern Europe in order “to defend your territorial integrity”.

READ MORE: Obama pledges $1bn for more troops, military drills in E. Europe

The US President statements came amid the deteriorating political crisis in south-eastern Ukraine, where anti-Kiev protesters seek independence and where intense clashes between self-defense militia and the regime’s troops are now a part of everyday life.

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