“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The shadow wars of the CIA: Obama has presided over a vast expansion of CIA and Pentagon authorities to secretly kill thousands of people around the globe, relying on missile-firing drone aircraft, special operations teams, mercenaries and privateers.

The Way of the Knife' exposes America's shadow wars
Journalist Mark Mazzetti looks at the U.S.' targeted killings and use of drones in the war on terror. Amid the many details, he raises warnings.
By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times
May 3, 2013, 8:00 a.m.

In October 2002, Barack Obama, then an obscure state senator in Illinois, stood in Federal Plaza in Chicago and gave a speech about Iraq that launched his career toward the White House.
"I don't oppose all wars," Obama told the crowd. "What I am opposed to is a dumb war."
More than a decade later, Obama's vision of a smart war — or at least a new way of war — is clear, even if he has not publicly articulated it. He has presided over a vast expansion of CIA and Pentagon authorities to secretly kill thousands of people around the globe, relying on missile-firing drone aircraft, special operations teams, mercenaries and privateers.
History will decide whether Obama championed a counter-terrorism policy that contained a national threat at low cost and little risk — or if he authorized targeted killings (critics call them extra-judicial executions) on such a sanguinary scale that America made more enemies than it eliminated.
In "The Way of the Knife," Mark Mazzetti pulls back some of the veils from America's ongoing shadow wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. The full story probably won't emerge for years, and this often colorful account raises as many questions as it answers. But Mazzetti finds new details and tracks the ominous blurring of traditional roles between soldiers and spies, the lush growth of a military-intelligence complex, and what the shift portends for the future.
Mazzetti covers national security at the New York Times, where he regularly breaks scoops. For his first book, he seems to have emptied his notebooks of nuggets — a U.S. drone strike in the Philippines, an eavesdropping device called "typhoon box," a failed military operation code-named "celestial balance" in Somalia — in a sometimes jumpy narrative. But it is a valuable addition to a canon that is exposing America's use of lethal operations far from declared war zones.
The history, at least, is familiar. The CIA had run into a political buzz saw in the early 1970s for harebrained assassination plots — one involved giving Fidel Castro an exploding cigar — and again after the Iran-Contra mess in the 1980s. People were hauled before congressional committees and convicted at criminal trials. After that, especially with the fall of the Soviet Union, the CIA largely abandoned sabotage, coups and paramilitary operations and focused instead on stealing secrets from foreign governments, the traditional role of an espionage agency.
But soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA was killing dozens of people in Afghanistan with a weapon tested for the first time only six months earlier: a Predator drone armed with a Hellfire missile. It was the perfect weapon for a spy service: It killed from afar, usually out of public view and without accountability. It was the start of remote-controlled war (although not "killer robots," as Mazzetti incorrectly writes), the policy that Obama ultimately embraced.
With the dawn of the drone age, the CIA got a license to kill. Since then, the author warns, it has become "a killing machine, an organization consumed with man hunting." The CIA director has become a "military commander running a clandestine global war with … very little oversight." It is the "willing executioner of America's enemies." It has "gone on a killing spree." And so on.
The drones hit hardest in northwest Pakistan, partly because the CIA obtained White House approval to carry out missile strikes there even if it didn't know who it was killing. So-called signature strikes targeted patterns of activity, such as clusters of "military-aged males" at a suspected militant camp. It's one reason the CIA claims it has killed almost no civilians: It lists everyone as a combatant unless explicit intelligence posthumously proves him innocent. Needless to say, most Pakistanis don't agree.
In the meantime, the CIA — which famously learned about the toppling of the Berlin Wall on CNN — was caught flat-footed by the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 that ousted pro-Western autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and ultimately drew America into a war in Libya. Later that year, America's estimated $80-billion-a-year spy system failed to learn for several days that Kim Jong Il, leader of nuclear-armed North Korea, had died.
The military, in turn, "has been dispersed into the dark spaces of American foreign policy," Mazzetti writes, and is running more spying missions than ever before. It's a tricky business because spies operate under a U.S. law that allows secrecy and lying, and the military fights under a separate legal code. So the Pentagon has relied chiefly on private contractors, one more colorful than the next, and the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC.
Operating in almost total secrecy, JSOC got its own stealth air force, its own communications satellites, its own drones. Most Americans learned of JSOC only after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 in Pakistan. The CIA ran the assault to give the Navy SEALs legal cover for the covert mission. A CIA operation is one thing; a military raid could be an act of war.
Soon after, Obama reshuffled his senior national security team. The results symbolized how intertwined U.S. military and intelligence operations have become. He moved the CIA director, Leon Panetta, over to the Pentagon. And he named Army Gen. David Petraeus, the most lauded general of his generation (until a sex scandal brought him down) to head the CIA. During his brief tenure, Petraeus expanded the drone fleet and told Congress that the CIA was conducting more covert action operations than at any time in its history.
Petraeus oversaw the first targeted killing by the CIA of a U.S. citizen, an Al Qaeda operational leader named Anwar Awlaki, in Yemen. The same drone strike (two CIA Predators locked onto the vehicles with lasers and a Reaper drone fired the missiles) killed another American, Samir Khan, who was not on the U.S. kill list. Two weeks later, a JSOC drone launched a missile at an open-air restaurant. Among the dead — and also not a target — was Awlaki's 16-year-old son, born in Denver. The CIA and JSOC were running two distinct, competing drone wars in Yemen and killed three Americans in short order.
Most Americans, fatigued by the grinding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seem little concerned about the shadow wars. They should be. As a former CIA officer explains, "Every drone strike is an execution. And if we are going to hand down death sentences, there ought to be some public accountability and some public discussion about the whole thing." Except for books like this, there is neither.
Drogin, Washington deputy bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, is author of "Curveball: Spies, Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War."


  1. Patrick Ventrell, the acting deputy press secretary at the State Department, said in an email that the failure of Hicks to find a satisfactory post was because he had cut short his Libyan assignment and that he was competing with colleagues of the same grade for future assignments. Ventrell said Hicks enjoyed the same pay and rank as before, and that a temporary post had been found for him pending possible reassignment elsewhere.


    "However, the department worked with him to find a suitable temporary assignment and succeeded. Mr Hicks still receives the same salary and he has the same employment status and rank as before.


    The Pentagon disputed Hicks' claims, too, saying that there was nothing it could have done to mount a rescue in time. Pentagon press secretary George Little, briefing reporters on Wednesday, said: "The fact remains – as we have repeatedly indicated – that United States forces could not have arrived in time to mount a rescue of those Americans killed or injured that night."

  2. Always trying to be helpful, our dearest ally:
    © AFP
    Israel has authorised the construction of 296 new settler homes in the West Bank, an Israeli army official said Thursday, in a controversial move that is likely to spark tensions as Washington seeks to reignite peace talks.
    By News Wires (text)

    Israel has given the go-ahead to build nearly 300 homes in the Beit El settlement near Ramallah, an official said Thursday, in a move likely to spark tensions as Washington seeks to rekindle peace talks.

    "The Civil Administration has given the green light for 296 housing units at Beit El, but this is only the first stage of a process before actual construction can begin," said the spokesman for a unit within the defence ministry which administers the West Bank.

    Israel's chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni said she had been informed about the move as she was holding talks in Rome with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, but sought to play down its impact.

    1. Homes being built are not the issue inside of existing areas.

      But you can keep fooling yourself by giving excuses for the palestinian savages.

    2. Savages have their fans ...

      Two days after the Patriot Day bombing...

      Hitler, quot wrote, was right, his own father wrong.

      Makes one wonder, what he will say of the Palestinians next year?

  3. John Kerry is in Moscow, groveling to Putin, explaining why Syria doesn’t need a defensive ground to air missile system to protect it from Israeli bombing raids on Syria.

    You have to understand, the peace process requires all interested parties must go the extra mile to help the peace process. Surely the Russians must understand that.

  4. Well lookie here, the Pentagon now has the power to control information on the internet:

    The world’s first 3D-printed handgun, The Liberator, has had its liberty taken away by the government.

    Plans for the working handgun were posted online Monday by Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, potentially allowing anyone with access to a 3D printer to make a firearm from plastic. The plans, which had been in the works for months, caused alarm among gun control advocates but were seen by some Second Amendment advocates as a breakthrough. More than 100,000 copies of the plans were downloaded before the federal government took the files.

    “[Defense Distributed's] files are being removed from public access at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense Trade Controls," read a banner atop the website. “Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”

    Wilson tells that he decided to comply to a request by the Pentagon to take down the gun specs from his website while he weighs his legal options.

    Read more:

  5. The families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga.

    The jirga, a traditional community dispute resolution mechanism, had been called to settle a chromite mining dispute in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. This strike killed more than 50 tribal elders, including a number of government officials. There was strong condemnation of this attack by all quarters in Pakistan including the federal government and Pakistan military.

    Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for victims in the case, said: “This is a landmark judgment. Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: if drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court.”?

    Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based group Reprieve, which has supported the case, said: “Today's momentous decision by the Peshawar High Court shines the first rays of accountability onto the CIA's secret drone war.”

    He added: “For the innocent people killed by U.S. drone strikes, it marks the first time they have been officially acknowledged for who they truly are - civilian victims of American war crimes.”

    A Pakistani court has declared that US drone strikes in the country's tribal belt are illegal and has directed the government to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.

    In what activists said was an historic decision, the Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage”.

    Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people.

    “The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said, according to the Press Trust of India. It asked Pakistan's foreign ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.

    “If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.

  6. OOOO - That is code talk for four OOrahs on this little drone story. Good old American know-how

    Posted May 08, 2013, at 10:54 a.m.

    It was a contradiction that perfectly captured the essence of the U.S. drone war against Islamic terrorists: Just as we learned that strikes in Yemen had resumed after a three-month hiatus, a Yemeni journalist gave heartrending congressional testimony about an attack that killed five in his village of Wessab.

    “The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine,” Farea al-Muslimi told a Senate judiciary subcommittee on human rights last month. “The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis.”

    There are good reasons the United States has made Yemen a central front against jihadis: It was where the plot was hatched to blow up a U.S. jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009 and the base for the propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen killed in a drone strike in 2011.

    Unfortunately, the effort’s destabilizing effect has given that divided nation, long the poorest in the Arab world, the additional distinction of being the most likely to collapse. That would be both a tragedy for its citizens and a golden opportunity for al-Qaida to establish a haven similar to Afghanistan in the 1990s.

    So, what can the wealthy Persian Gulf states, the U.S. and its allies do to keep Yemen from failing?

    For starters, they should rethink the National Dialogue Conference that began in March in Sana, Yemen’s capital. The goal was to avert outright secession by Yemen’s south, which was the independent, socialist People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen before unification in 1990. The conference was foisted on the Yemenis by neighboring Saudi Arabia — to whom the U.S. has outsourced the job of holding Yemen together.

    A poor stepchild to the favored north under the dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the south would be ill-advised to secede. Given old tribal and regional grudges, the most likely result would be dissolution into a lawless and ungovernable mini-Afghanistan. The region would do better negotiating for increased autonomy and a fairer distribution of the country’s annual $7.6 billion in oil revenue. Given that 80 percent of oil reserves are in the south, they have a strong bargaining position.

    The Saudis could do far more to facilitate a deal. In an effort to lower their own unemployment, they have enacted stricter caps on Yemeni guest workers and have initiated a wave of deportations of foreign workers lacking proper papers. This puts a huge dent in the $4 billion or so that Yemeni workers remit to their families each year, without which Yemen’s economy would collapse.

    Saudi Arabia has also made good on only about half of its $3.2 billion commitment to Yemen’s political transition, made in the feel-good days of the Arab Spring. Other Gulf Cooperation Council members, including Qatar and Kuwait, have been even more grudging.

    The U.S., meanwhile, supports the government on one hand — $345 million in 2012 — while destabilizing it through its counterterrorism policies on the other. The roughly 70 drone strikes since 2009 have killed at least 500 people. Although perhaps fewer than 10 percent were civilians, the deaths have outraged Yemeni public opinion and made it increasingly difficult for tribal and religious opponents of al-Qaida to rally their followers.

    Gregory D. Johnsen, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaida and America’s War in Arabia,” says Yemenis may be partly assuaged if the U.S. goes after only known terrorists and ends its campaign of “signature strikes,” in which targets are selected based on observations of suspicious activity.

    “Drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen,” Al-Muslimi warned the senators. To defeat al-Qaida, we must help him succeed.

  7. Man we are one global killing machine. Sure makes you proud.

  8. But deuce, you are being unpatriotic again:

    Most news out of the Middle East these days is dispiriting: the devastating civil war in Syria, the autocratic nature of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, continued militia activity in Libya, a coalition collapse in Tunisia. Less discussed, and surprisingly positive, is the political situation in Yemen.

    The United States has played a significant role in Yemen’s transition, which ushered out former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in exchange for immunity, and inaugurated a unity government and consensus president that are overseeing a national dialogue launched last month. The US has pledged support for the dialogue, which will lead to a constitutional referendum and new elections.

    To many Yemenis, however, Washington is narrowly focused on short-term security concerns and the fight against terrorism; the US, they think, cares little about real political change.

    As Yemen’s transition enters a critical stage, Washington has an opportunity to change this image by redirecting its policy to greater emphasis on stability, prosperity and democracy, which would advance both US and Yemeni interests.

    Despite considerable US humanitarian aid and development support to their government, most Yemenis associate US engagement with the ongoing drone campaign to destroy al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and they see it as having little regard for its effect on civilians. A number of former US military and intelligence officials argue that the drone program’s costs might exceed its benefits. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal has articulated the hazards of overreliance on drones, and Gen. James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned last month against unintended consequences, arguing that no matter how precise drone strikes may be, they breed animosity among targeted communities and threaten US efforts to curb extremism.

    1. Eight non sense posts in a row, a record!

      Everything always our fault, all the time, every time.

      And Israel, oh Israel, never done a thing but beat on the poor arabs who are sacredly pledged to drive them into the sea.

  9. .

    I wish Trish was still around. I found this blog site. Thought it might bring back memories of her days of rousting and interrogating prisoners.


    1. A swap would be great.

      Give you the time to work on the problems of your state's largest city. (I think largest, it has lost a lot of population)


  10. Un-aired RNC Benghazi ad: The “3 A.M. phone call,” reprised
    posted at 8:41 pm on May 9, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

    As Romney should have used, but didn't.

  11. Charlie LeDuff golfs Detroit.

    He ought to invite the Community Organizer in Chief to the 'Detroit Open'.

    1. Quirk could caddy for Le Duff.

    2. .

      Maybe 20 years ago. Now Charlie's a little wild even for me.

      See the attached link involving Corktown, the St. Paddy's day parade, drinking, urinating in public, calling some police women ho's, a brawl, biting a security guard, and Charlie.

      Everybody here likes the guy. If you google him, you'll see some of the things he does here as a gadfly to the rich and powerful. However, if you watch the video in the link you too might hesitate going out to drink with the guy.



    3. Everyone has to make a living somehow.

  12. When the dead from Benghazi were brought back, both Shillary and Susan Rice told Mrs Smith, a family member of one of the dead, right to her face, 'nose to nose', that the video was the cause of the attack.

    Shrillary knew this was not true, and Rice probably did as well.

    What kind of people are these?

  13. China's solar companies, already reeling from a collapse in product prices, will face an even tougher road ahead if the European Union follows through with a plan to impose steep tariffs.


    The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, plans to announce in June that it will impose tariffs of up to 67.9% on imports of Chinese-made solar panels,...

  14. On this day in 1974, music critic Jon Landau watched a concert in Massachusetts and followed up with a review that contained these words: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is...


    1. Bruce Springsteen.

      I wasn't born yesterday.


    2. What is my prize? Two free airline tickets to Australia will do nicely.

      Thank you.

  15. The Moslems hate and struggle against the Chinese, and the Russians, and the Europeans, and the Hindus, and the Africans, and above all Israel, and the United States, and the Canadians, and Australians, and everyone they bump up against, and they hate each other. Hate, they roll in it. They love hate. They feed on it.

    And this has been going on for centuries.

    For centuries.

    It was western industry and science that has made some of them rich beyond all imagining. And they hate us. And they will use if they can western science against the world.

    And all I hear is how all the problems are our fault.

    What is this really but some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome?

  16. Middle school education in Colorado -

    Anti-frack rap

    Ruf might approve.

    Wouldn't be a 'gas' to watch Rufus do the ethanol rap? The solar rap? The wind rap? The Ruf recycle rap?

    He might win more supporters to his point of view that way than any other.


  17. Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in an undisclosed location. No shrine for this man of Allah.

  18. A pivotal vote Thursday in the Minnesota House positioned that state to become the 12th in the country to allow gay marriages and the first in the Midwest to pass such a law out of its Legislature.


    The state Senate is expected to consider the bill Monday, and leaders expect it to pass there. Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign it into law.

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