“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."

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For 2014 Democrats are getting Smarter and Republicans are Getting Dumber

Percentage of Republicans who believe in evolution is shrinking
A Pew study finds that the percentage of Republicans who believe that Darwin's theory of evolution is correct has dropped 11 percent in about five years. That is suggestive of the country's broader polarization, the authors say. 
By Harry BruiniusStaff writer / December 31, 2013

In another sign of the deep and growing partisan divide, American views on evolution are growing apart, as well. Less than five years ago, 54 percent of Republicans and nearly two-thirds of Democrats said the human species evolved over time. Today, however, the share of Republicans adhering to modern theories of human evolution has dropped significantly – to 43 percent – while the number of Democrats has climbed to 67 percent, though within the sampling error range, according to a Pew Research Center study of the public’s views of human evolution, released Monday.
"The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time," said Cary Funk, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, according to Reuters.
As a whole, 6 of 10 Americans say they believe that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” with a third rejecting evolution altogether, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
And while the views of most sub-groups have remained relatively unchanged since 2009, the change among those identifying themselves as Republicans is somewhat curious.
Even when Pew researchers attempted to factor out the influence of education, race, and levels of religious commitment, the poll still showed a spike in partisan differences.
"It's an intriguing finding that is suggestive of greater polarization," said Mr. Funk, who conducted the analysis of the poll, according to NBC news.
When Pew began to measure differences in how those in each party feels about certain value-oriented questions in 1987, the average gap between Democrats and Republicans was 10 points. By 2012, this difference was 18 points.
And these differences have grown mostly during the Bush and Obama presidencies. Until 2002, the average difference in values fluctuated between 9 and 11 points. This jumped to 14 points in 2003, however, then up to 16 points in 2009, and then 18 points in 2012. The poll had asked the same questions in the same way for 25 years, Pew researchers say.
Those with the most pronounced skeptical views on human evolution remain white evangelical Protestants, who are a potent force in conservative politics and a key base of support for the tea party movement.
“God's word is true. I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell," said tea party Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia in a 2012 speech. “It's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Almost two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants say humans existed in their present form since the beginning of time, while nearly 8 in 10 “mainline” Protestants believe in evolution. In fact, though half of black Protestants are skeptical of human evolution, no other religious group in the country has a majority doubting human evolution.
Scholars point out, too, that Darwinism was one of the galvanizing issues in the evolution of contemporary evangelical Protestantism. As Protestants began to grapple with a changing modern world in the early 20th century, “mainline” and Evangelical divisions began.
In a series of essays called “The Fundamentals” from 1910 to 1915, conservative Presbyterians, mostly, railed against the “decadence of Darwinism” and modern scholarship. The term “fundamentalism,” now used as a fungible catch-all for most any conservative religious group, derives from these famous tracts.

And after the Scopes trial in 1925, which began to turn public opinion toward the acceptance of teaching evolution, conservative evangelicals were not a major force in public up to the 1970s, reemerging with the election of Ronald Reagan and becoming one of the more significant forces in American politics.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, and ordered to be dismantled, the annexation Wall, with its sinister ‘goon’ towers, continues to be built in utter disregard of international law and other people’s human rights.

Walled in by Zionism
by Stuart Littlewood / December 28th, 2013
London’s Christmas was made gloomier this year — and rightly so — by the appearance in the courtyard of St James’s Church, Piccadilly, of a replica of the hated Israeli annexation Wall that threads its thieving way around the Palestinian West Bank.
It’s a life-size representation of the actual 8-metre high Wall surrounding Bethlehem and imprisoning its inhabitants. The project, called ‘Bethlehem Unwrapped’ is a response to a call from the united churches of the Holy Land pleading with churches and communities around the world to “help us get our freedom back”.
The Israelis claim that the monstrous Wall, also known as the apartheid Wall, is to protect it’s citizens from terrorist attack. But in reality it is carefully routed to bite deep into Palestinian territory in order to steal choice agricultural land and water resources, as well as to seize strategic landscape and communication features and disconnect Palestinian communities from their livelihoods and from each other.
This is not the first time the evil barrier has been replicated by a British church. Over Christmas 2006 at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in my home town of St. Ives in Cambridgeshire, instead of enjoying the usual live sheep, cow, donkey and newborn babies at a Nativity scene, visitors were greeted by a grim grey replica of the Wall and photos of the real thing.
The parish priest wanted to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian people and replace the romantic idea of a manger crib with the ugly reality of the brutal occupation strangling his congregation’s ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’. He said he could understand Israel’s need for security but it was wrong to build the Wall on Palestinian land. “The lives of the ordinary citizens of Bethlehem have been devastated… It affects every aspect of their lives: friends and family are separated, earning a living becomes more and more difficult, and access to health care is severely restricted in the town of Bethlehem, which we sing about at this time of the year. If we can provide these people with a few extra basic provisions and give them a little financial support, we can help make their lives more bearable.” He was confident that the people of St Ives would want to express their support for those oppressed people at Christmas.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London called it a cheap public relations stunt, and the enterprising priest took a lot of flak from others who thought there was nothing wrong with Israel’s thuggish ways.
The St Ives parish is twinned with the parish of Aboud in the West Bank. Aboud, once called the City of Flowers, is a historic town of about 2000 people, half Christian, half Muslim, not far from Ramallah. On a hill above is the ancient monastery of St Barbara, blown up by the hooligan Israeli army in 2002. Throughout its long history Aboud is believed to have had no fewer than nine churches. The priest had made regular visits and watched local circumstances grow worse. His replica Wall had the support of his bishop, who said: “It is a dramatic way of highlighting the fact that in Bethlehem today, in particular the ordinary people, still suffer in all kinds of ways as they did in Jesus’ day.”
I’ve been to Aboud myself on a couple of occasions. It is a place one could easily fall in love with, but even here in this one-time Arab paradise the wretched Wall threatens to separate the townspeople from much of their land and olive groves and their water supply. The same goes for many more such lovely places in the Holy Land. In the case of Aboud massive protests have caused the Israelis to adjust the route of the Wall but it will still steal valuable property, restrict personal movement and rob the inhabitants of their freedom.
Condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, and ordered to be dismantled, the annexation Wall, with its sinister ‘goon’ towers, continues to be built in utter disregard of international law and other people’s human rights. It is symbolic of all that’s hateful and disgusting about the Israeli mentality. Because of its despicable purpose, and its sheer cruelty, the Wall contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is only a matter of time.
Meanwhile campaigners would do well to max up the potential of the Wall to shock and shame. And it is the Americans who are showing the way. As Finian Cunningham explains, one thing often missing from the Christmas celebrations is a connection between the original [alleged -- DV Ed] historical event – some 2,000 years ago – and how this story relates to present reality. A new billboard campaign now running in the US gives the traditional Christmas story realistic, contemporary meaning. “Massive public hoardings, currently on display in various cities across the US, show Mary, pregnant with her soon-to-be-born baby son, Jesus, being led on a donkey towards the ancient Palestinian town of Bethlehem by her husband Joseph. Confronting this weary family is not the occupying forces of the Roman Empire, as in ancient accounts of the nativity, but rather it is the occupying forces of the Zionist Israeli regime.”
Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting Read other articles by Stuart.
This article was posted on Saturday, December 28th, 2013 at 6:48am and is filed under Discrimination, Israel/Palestine, Racism, War Crimes, Zionism.

Israel Has Recognized The ICJ

Press Release 2004/28   9 July 2004
Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall 
in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

The Court finds that the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory and its associated régime are contrary to international law;  it states 
the legal consequences arising from that illegality

          THE HAGUE, 9 July 2004.  The International Court of Justice (ICJ), principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has today rendered its Advisory Opinion in the case concerning the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (request for advisory opinion).
          In its Opinion, the Court finds unanimously that it has jurisdiction to give the advisory opinion requested by the United Nations General Assembly and decides by fourteen votes to one to comply with that request.
          The Court responds to the question as follows:
-     “A. By fourteen votes to one,
          The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law”;
-     “B. By fourteen votes to one,
          Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law;  it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with paragraph 151 of this Opinion”;
-     “C. By fourteen votes to one,
          Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem”;
-     “D. By thirteen votes to two,
          All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction;  all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention”;
-     “E. By fourteen votes to one,
          The United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated régime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.”

The End of Freedom As We Knew It

Someone talked me into watching the idiotic movie, Hunger Games.  I watched about seven minutes of it. I am willing to suspend reasonable doubt for the sake of art, but even art has its limits.

I got the point that some real bad shit must have come down on the world and things became real primitive and good looking babes had to hunt to feed their families. I gave the movie a pass in that people didn’t look that hungry, especially the young babe.

Then I was asked to believe that she hunted with a bow and arrow and those who must be obeyed, forced her to hide the bow and arrow in the woods. Then it all came apart for me when she retrieved her bow and arrows and I had a look at the condition of the feathers on the arrows. This babe was not ever going to hunt and hit anything with those feathers on those arrows. She missed a deer but hit a quail.

I knew too much to go further. Such is a life experience. Many young people simply would not notice a detail that is obvious to someone with a different experience. That is happening with regard to personal freedoms. Too many young people simply do not notice and if they do, they do not seem to care enough.

Fortunately some do  notice.  Hopefully, it is not too late:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The day after 9/11 America had the moral authority and military means to eradicate Islamic fundamentalism once and for all. Saudi Arabia, The Taliban and al Qaeda should have paid the just price. Bush and the Neocons blew it and we are stuck with the consequences.

The West has lost control of the world and disaster awaits

We're going to need a great of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe - and this can be traced back to the First World War and the death of Frederick III in 1888

3:01PM GMT 28 Dec 2013

As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.
As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilization across the globe.

Then one of the scourges of modern life struck and killed. In 1888, Frederick III became Emperor of Germany. Queen Victoria’s son-in-law, he was a thoughtful man who had an easy relationship with his English relatives. By temperament he was a constitutionalist, a liberal and no enthusiast for militarism. As he had served in the field with distinction, Frederick could have mobilized the prestige to justify his pacific inclinations.

It was not to be. Already in the grip of cancer when he ascended the throne, he lived for only 99 days. There is an irony. Frederick, not a blood relation, would have had much in common with Prince Albert. The new Emperor, William, Albert’s grandson, was more like some of the worst Hanoverian princes. Envious and insecure, he was a strutting little ponce of an emperor: Kaiser Sarkozy.

It is by no means certain that 1914 could have been avoided. There was a great deal of tinder around, and most of the policymakers had a wholly insufficient understanding of the horrors of modern war. But a German emperor of immense authority, who would have been seeking a 20th-century version of the post-1815 settlement, who might even have invented the concept of collective security – it could have worked.
If so, Adolf Hitler’s name might now be gathering dust in a police file: “Failed artist and casually employed house painter, who sometimes tries to rabble-rouse the bierkeller dregs in the poorer quarters. Once spent the night in the cells for causing a disturbance outside a Jewish household…” An early British socialist, Robert Tressell, wrote a novel about house painters, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Without the Great War, Hitler would have been a mere unchronicled ragged-trousered misanthropist.
If only; 1914-1945 was the worst period in European history since the Dark Ages. In 1914, there was talk of “the war to end all wars” – possibly the most fatuous geopolitical mistake of all time. It makes “the new world order” sound like common sense. By the end of the First World War, they were rolling the pitch for the Second. Enlightenment, the Whig theory of history, any other theory based on inevitable and steady improvement: they had all formed a Pals’ battalion and died in the trenches.

The deaths continued. By 1945, Europe was staring into the abyss, and we know what Nietzsche said: “If you stare into the abyss for long enough, it will stare back at you.” The stare was broken, the Third and final war avoided, not by a reassertion of civilised values, but by the atom bomb. Mankind survived because of mutually assured destruction.

Apropos of atomic weapons, there is another terrible thought. If Hitler had not been anti-semitic, he would have won the Second World War. Instead of dismissing atomic/nuclear physics as “Jewish science”, suppose he had persuaded enough Jewish scientists to work for him? He would almost certainly have had the Bomb first. But anti-semitism was at Hitler's black and evil core. In the bleak midwinter, why do we need ghost stories to provide a frisson of pretend horror, when real horror is available in unlimited quantities just by contemplating the last 100 years?

The wars left Britain too exhausted to deal with a brace of imperial difficulties. Even if we had not been so depleted in blood and treasure, India would have been tricky. From Macaulay onwards, the wisest intellects who involved themselves with Indian affairs knew that English rule was a trusteeship, not a 1,000-year Reich. But when it came to India, Churchill’s was not a wise intellect, and he would have had supporters. No wars, therefore no imperial overstretch: assuming that wisdom had prevailed, India could have been brought to independence gradually, not in a post-war scuttle. It could also have been brought to independence as one country – so no Pakistan, that most dangerous of all failed states.

Equally, if there had been no First and Second World Wars, there would have been nothing like the same pressure for a Jewish nation in Palestine. The odd rich philanthropist, satiated with first-growth claret and sick of the falsity of drawing rooms, might have persuaded some similar-minded kibbutzniks of the delights of ditch-digging. As they would probably have paid the previous Arab proprietors 50 times what the land was worth, there might have been no trouble. It should have been possible to create a self-governing Jewish enclave in Palestine for the price of a few broken heads in the odd inter-communal riot.
Without Pakistan, without a chronic and insoluble Palestinian crisis – those two Ps that will continue to torment mankind, no matter how many mattresses are used to squash them – this century would look promising.

As it is, we have the two Ps, and mutually assured destruction is breaking down. It worked during the Cold War, and it has worked between India and Pakistan. Could it work between Israel and Iran? Could the Iranians be trusted not to hand some stuff out at the back door? For that matter, is it inconceivable that there could be a seepage from Pakistan? What about miniaturisation? A couple of hundred quid in a high-street computer shop will buy you something more powerful than the Pentagon’s computer resources 40 years ago. All other forms of technology are becoming smaller, cheaper and more accessible. Is nuclear weaponry really immune from that?

While the whole world was turned upside down in the 20th century, Islamic societies were not immune. Though it would be absurd to talk as if Islam was the same from Morocco to Malaysia, there are forces and fractures in the Muslim world, many of them related to religion; some of them producing young men who hate us and everything we stand for. The West has lost control, and it all started in 1888. We will need a lot of good fortune to steer through the next few decades. Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The next number Two at the Fed

Federal Judge William Pauley who rules NSA spying on US citizens is OK previously freed an American who spied for Israel

“Court documents showed that Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined $50,000 but spared prison time, reported to the same handler as Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s and triggered a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations."

"Kadish pleaded guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of Israel. He was arrested in April 2008 on four counts of conspiracy and espionage. The spying charge, dropped under a plea deal, had carried a possible death sentence.”

"[U.S. District Judge William Pauley] said he gave a lenient sentence due to Kadish’s age and infirmity, but said Kadish had committed 'a grave offense' and had 'abused the trust' of the United States."

This is part of this judge’s ruling. Now we need to connect some dots on this judge:

“As the September 11 attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a threat can be horrific,” he wrote in the ruling. “Technology allowed al-Qaida to operate decentralised and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection program me represents the government's counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to re-construct and eliminate al-Qaida's terror network.”

It gets worse from this judge:

Judge Pauley said privacy protections enshrined in the fourth amendment of the US constitution needed to be balanced against a government need to maintain a database of records to prevent future terrorist attacks. “The right to be free from searches is fundamental but not absolute,” he said. “Whether the fourth amendment protects bulk telephony metadata is ultimately a question of reasonableness.”

Did the judge really say that The Constitution needs to be balanced against national security requirements?

He is not interpreting The Constitution. The judge is saying that he thinks it shouldn’t apply here.

Then what is the point of The  Constitution?

Does a federal judge really have the ability to ignore The Constitution when he deems it ‘getting in the way’ of national security?

Who is this judge? Who does he represent? 

The  Constitution was written precisely to ensure that judges and politicians are not able to do this. The right to privacy is fundamental to any democracy. The fourth amendment does not permit searches and seizures without suspicion of illegality. That is the law of the land and should be obeyed. If those in power want to do something different they need to make their arguments and get the consent of the people to change the constitution.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment,” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.

This article from The Washington Post is masterful. It lays waste to the arguments by the liars and defenders of the vicious assault by a rogue federal agency, a house of Un-American activities, called the NSA, against the rights and freedoms of American citizens. It is rich in details and easy to understand.

Read it and suspend your superfluous comments until you do. 


Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished

By Barton Gellman, Published: December 23

MOSCOW — The familiar voice on the hotel room phone did not waste words.
“What time does your clock say, exactly?” he asked.

  1. View the NSA timeline

He checked the reply against his watch and described a place to meet.
“I’ll see you there,” he said.
Edward Joseph Snowden emerged at the appointed hour, alone, blending into a light crowd of locals and tourists. He cocked his arm for a handshake, then turned his shoulder to indicate a path. Before long he had guided his visitor to a secure space out of public view.
During more than 14 hours of interviews, the first he has conducted in person since arriving here in June, Snowden did not part the curtains or step outside. Russia granted him temporary asylum on Aug. 1, but Snowden remains a target of surpassing interest to the intelligence services whose secrets he spilled on an epic scale.
Late this spring, Snowden supplied three journalists, including this one, with caches of top-secret documents from the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor. Dozens of revelations followed, and then hundreds, as news organizations around the world picked up the story. Congress pressed for explanations, new evidence revived old lawsuits and the Obama administration was obliged to declassify thousands of pages it had fought for years to conceal.
Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations. One of the leaked presentation slides described the agency’s “collection philosophy” as “Order one of everything off the menu.”
Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.
Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”
‘Going in blind’
Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment,” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.
Toppling those walls would be a spectacular act of transgression against the norms that prevailed inside them. Someone would have to bypass security, extract the secrets, make undetected contact with journalists and provide them with enough proof to tell the stories.
The NSA’s business is “information dominance,” the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. At 29, Snowden upended the agency on its own turf.
“You recognize that you’re going in blind, that there’s no model,” Snowden said, acknowledging that he had no way to know whether the public would share his views.
“But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act,” he said, “you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis. Because even if your analysis proves to be wrong, the marketplace of ideas will bear that out. If you look at it from an engineering perspective, an iterative perspective, it’s clear that you have to try something rather than do nothing.”
By his own terms, Snowden succeeded beyond plausible ambition. The NSA, accustomed to watching without being watched, faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.
The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals. The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.
For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden’s motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.
On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.
The next day, in the Roosevelt Room, an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program.
“This week is a turning point,” said the Government Accountability Project’s Jesselyn Radack, who is one of Snowden’s legal advisers. “It has been just a cascade.”
‘They elected me’
On June 22, the Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint charging Snowden with espionage and felony theft of government property. It was a dry enumeration of statutes, without a trace of the anger pulsing through Snowden’s former precincts.
In the intelligence and national security establishments, Snowden is widely viewed as a reckless saboteur, and journalists abetting him little less so.
At the Aspen Security Forum in July, a four-star military officer known for his even keel seethed through one meeting alongside a reporter he knew to be in contact with Snowden. Before walking away, he turned and pointed a finger.
“We didn’t have another 9/11,” he said angrily, because intelligence enabled warfighters to find the enemy first. “Until you’ve got to pull the trigger, until you’ve had to bury your people, you don’t have a clue.”
It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula.
In his interview with The Post, Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the ­classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.
“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.”
People who accuse him of disloyalty, he said, mistake his purpose.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
What entitled Snowden, now 30, to take on that responsibility?
“That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model,” he said. “They elected me. The overseers.”
He named the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions” in committee hearings, he said. “Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. . . . The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do. The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”
“It wasn’t that they put it on me as an individual — that I’m uniquely qualified, an angel descending from the heavens — as that they put it on someone, somewhere,” he said. “You have the capability, and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability but they don’t do it. So somebody has to be the first.”
‘Front-page test’
Snowden grants that NSA employees by and large believe in their mission and trust the agency to handle the secrets it takes from ordinary people — deliberately, in the case of bulk records collection, and “incidentally,” when the content of American phone calls and e-mails are swept into NSA systems along with foreign targets.
But Snowden also said acceptance of the agency’s operations was not universal. He began to test that proposition more than a year ago, he said, in periodic conversations with co-workers and superiors that foreshadowed his emerging plan.
Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.
His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.
“I asked these people, ‘What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?’ ” he said. He noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. “How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” he said.
By last December, Snowden was contacting reporters, although he had not yet passed along any classified information. He continued to give his colleagues the “front-page test,” he said, until April.
Asked about those conversations, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines sent a prepared statement to The Post: “After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”
Snowden recounted another set of conversations that he said took place three years earlier, when he was sent by the NSA’s Technology Directorate to support operations at a listening post in Japan. As a system administrator, he had full access to security and auditing controls. He said he saw serious flaws with information security.
“I actually recommended they move to two-man control for administrative access back in 2009,” he said, first to his supervisor in Japan and then to the directorate’s chief of operations in the Pacific. “Sure, a whistleblower could use these things, but so could a spy.”
That precaution, which requires a second set of credentials to perform risky operations such as copying files onto a removable drive, has been among the principal security responses to the Snowden affair.
Vines, the NSA spokeswoman, said there was no record of those conversations, either.
U.S. ‘would cease to exist’
Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a “selfish fear” of the consequences for himself.
“I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won’t want change,” he recalled this month.
The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had.
Internal briefing documents reveled in the “Golden Age of Electronic Surveillance.” Brawny cover names such as MUSCULAR, TUMULT and TURMOIL boasted of the agency’s prowess.
With assistance from private communications firms, the NSA had learned to capture enormous flows of data at the speed of light from fiber-optic cables that carried Internet and telephone traffic over continents and under seas. According to one document in Snowden’s cache, the agency’s Special Source Operations group, which as early as 2006 was said to be ingesting “one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds,” had an official seal that might have been parody: an eagle with all the world’s cables in its grasp.
Each year, NSA systems collected hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, hundreds of billions of cellphone location records and trillions of domestic call logs.
Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to use the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.
In the view of the NSA, signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping, was a matter of life and death, “without which America would cease to exist as we know it,” according to an internal presentation in the first week of October 2001 as the agency ramped up its response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
With stakes such as those, there was no capability the NSA believed it should leave on the table. The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still.
Using PRISM, the cover name for collection of user data from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and five other U.S.-based companies, the NSA could obtain all communications to or from any specified target. The companies had no choice but to comply with the government's request for data.
But the NSA could not use PRISM, which was overseen once a year by the surveillance court, for the collection of virtually all data handled by those companies. To widen its access, it teamed up with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, to break into the private fiber-optic links that connected Google and Yahoo data centers around the world.
That operation, which used the cover name MUSCULAR, tapped into U.S. company data from outside U.S. territory. The NSA, therefore, believed it did not need permission from Congress or judicial oversight. Data from hundreds of millions of U.S. accounts flowed over those Google and Yahoo links, but classified rules allowed the NSA to presume that data ingested overseas belonged to foreigners.
‘Persistent threat’
Disclosure of the MUSCULAR project enraged and galvanized U.S. technology executives. They believed the NSA had lawful access to their front doors — and had broken down the back doors anyway.
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith took to his company’s blog and called the NSA an “advanced persistent threat” — the worst of all fighting words in U.S. cybersecurity circles, generally reserved for Chinese state-sponsored hackers and sophisticated criminal enterprises.
“For the industry as a whole, it caused everyone to ask whether we knew as much as we thought,” Smith recalled in an interview. “It underscored the fact that while people were confident that the U.S. government was complying with U.S. laws for activity within U.S. territory, perhaps there were things going on outside the United States . . . that made this bigger and more complicated and more disconcerting than we knew.”
They wondered, he said, whether the NSA was “collecting proprietary information from the companies themselves.”
Led by Google and then Yahoo, one company after another announced expensive plans to encrypt its data traffic over tens of thousands of miles of cable. It was a direct — in some cases, explicit — blow to NSA collection of user data in bulk. If the NSA wanted the information, it would have to request it or circumvent the encryption one target at a time.
As these projects are completed, the Internet will become a less friendly place for the NSA to work. The agency can still collect data from virtually anyone, but collecting from everyone will be harder.
The industry’s response, Smith acknowledged, was driven by a business threat. U.S. companies could not afford to be seen as candy stores for U.S. intelligence. But the principle of the thing, Smith said, “is fundamentally about ensuring that customer data is turned over to governments pursuant to valid legal orders and in accordance with constitutional principles.”
‘Warheads on foreheads’
Snowden has focused on much the same point from the beginning: Individual targeting would cure most of what he believes is wrong with the NSA.
Six months ago, a reporter asked him by encrypted e-mail why Americans would want the NSA to give up bulk data collection if that would limit a useful intelligence tool.
“I believe the cost of frank public debate about the powers of our government is less than the danger posed by allowing these powers to continue growing in secret,” he replied, calling them “a direct threat to democratic governance.”
In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, “What the government wants is something they never had before,” adding: “They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”
Snowden likened the NSA’s powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when “general warrants” allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, “is authorizing general warrants for the entire country’s metadata.”
“The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.
Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA’s possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.
At the NSA, he said, “there are people in the office who joke about, ‘We put warheads on foreheads.’ Twitter doesn’t put warheads on foreheads.”
Privacy, as Snowden sees it, is a universal right, applicable to American and foreign surveillance alike.
“I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden,” he said. “As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees.”
‘Everybody knows’
On June 29, Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counter­terrorism coordinator, awoke to a report in Der Spiegel that U.S. intelligence had broken into E.U. offices, including his, to implant surveillance devices.
The 56-year-old Belgian, whose work is often classified, did not consider himself naive. But he took the news personally, and more so when he heard unofficial explanations from Washington.
“ ‘Everybody knows. Everybody does’ — Keith Alexander said that,” de Kerchove said in an interview. “I don’t like the idea that the NSA will put bugs in my office. No. I don’t like it. No. Between allies? No. I’m surprised that people find that noble.”
Comparable reactions, expressed less politely in private, accompanied revelations that the NSA had tapped the cellphones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The blowback roiled relations with both allies, among others. Rousseff canceled a state dinner with Obama in September.
When it comes to spying on allies, by Snowden’s lights, the news is not always about the target.
“It’s the deception of the government that’s revealed,” Snowden said, noting that the Obama administration offered false public assurances after the initial reports about NSA surveillance in Germany “The U.S. government said: ‘We follow German laws in Germany. We never target German citizens.’ And then the story comes out and it’s: ‘What are you talking about? You’re spying on the chancellor.’ You just lied to the entire country, in front of Congress.”
In private, U.S. intelligence officials still maintain that spying among friends is routine for all concerned, but they are giving greater weight to the risk of getting caught.
“There are many things we do in intelligence that, if revealed, would have the potential for all kinds of blowback,” Clapper told a House panel in October.
‘They will make mistakes’
U.S. officials say it is obvious that Snowden’s disclosures will do grave harm to intelligence gathering, exposing methods that adversaries will learn to avoid.
“We’re seeing al-Qaeda and related groups start to look for ways to adjust how they communicate,” said Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a former general counsel at the NSA.
Other officials, who declined to speak on the record about particulars, said they had watched some of their surveillance targets, in effect, changing channels. That evidence can be read another way, they acknowledged, given that the NSA managed to monitor the shift.
Clapper has said repeatedly in public that the leaks did great damage, but in private he has taken a more nuanced stance. A review of early damage assessments in previous espionage cases, he said in one closed-door briefing this fall, found that dire forecasts of harm were seldom borne out.
“People must communicate,” he said, according to one participant who described the confidential meeting on the condition of anonymity. “They will make mistakes, and we will exploit them.”
According to senior intelligence officials, two uncertainties feed their greatest concerns. One is whether Russia or China managed to take the Snowden archive from his computer, a worst-case assumption for which three officials acknowledged there is no evidence.
In a previous assignment, Snowden taught U.S. intelligence personnel how to operate securely in a “high-threat digital environment,” using a training scenario in which China was the designated threat. He declined to discuss the whereabouts of the files, but he said that he is confident he did not expose them to Chinese intelligence in Hong Kong. And he said he did not bring them to Russia.
“There’s nothing on it,” he said, turning his laptop screen toward his visitor. “My hard drive is completely blank.”
The other big question is how many documents Snowden took. The NSA’s incoming deputy director, Rick Ledgett, said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently that the number may approach 1.7 million, a huge and unexplained spike over previous estimates. Ledgett said he would favor trying to negotiate an amnesty with Snowden in exchange for “assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured.”
Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, later dismissed the possibility.
“The government knows where to find us if they want to have a productive conversation about resolutions that don’t involve Edward Snowden behind bars,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s Ben Wizner, the central figure on Snowden’s legal team.
Some news accounts have quoted U.S. government officials as saying Snowden has arranged for the automated release of sensitive documents if he is arrested or harmed. There are strong reasons to doubt that, beginning with Snowden’s insistence, to this reporter and others, that he does not want the documents published in bulk.
If Snowden were fool enough to rig a “dead man’s switch,” confidants said, he would be inviting anyone who wants the documents to kill him.
Asked about such a mechanism in the Moscow interview, Snowden made a face and declined to reply. Later, he sent an encrypted message. “That sounds more like a suicide switch,” he wrote. “It wouldn’t make sense.”
‘It’s not about me’
By temperament and circumstance, Snowden is a reticent man, reluctant to discuss details about his personal life.
Over two days his guard never dropped, but he allowed a few fragments to emerge. He is an “ascetic,” he said. He lives off ramen noodles and chips. He has visitors, and many of them bring books. The books pile up, unread. The Internet is an endless library and a window on the progress of his cause.
“It has always been really difficult to get me to leave the house,” he said. “I just don’t have a lot of needs. . . . Occasionally there’s things to go do, things to go see, people to meet, tasks to accomplish. But it’s really got to be goal-oriented, you know. Otherwise, as long as I can sit down and think and write and talk to somebody, that’s more meaningful to me than going out and looking at landmarks.”
In hope of keeping focus on the NSA, Snowden has ignored attacks on himself.
“Let them say what they want,” he said. “It’s not about me.”
Former NSA and CIA director Michael V. Hayden predicted that Snowden will waste away in Moscow as an alcoholic, like other “defectors.” To this, Snowden shrugged. He does not drink at all. Never has.
But Snowden knows his presence here is easy ammunition for critics. He did not choose refuge in Moscow as a final destination. He said that once the U.S. government voided his passport as he tried to change planes en route to Latin America, he had no other choice.
It would be odd if Russian authorities did not keep an eye on him, but no retinue accompanied Snowden and his visitor saw no one else nearby. Snowden neither tried to communicate furtively nor asked that his visitor do so. He has had continuous Internet access and has talked to his attorneys and to journalists daily, from his first day in the transit lounge at Sheremetyevo airport.
“There is no evidence at all for the claim that I have loyalties to Russia or China or any country other than the United States,” he said. “I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.”
“If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Changing Times in Turkey

As time goes by: Turkey’s role in Syria’s unfolding crisis
Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent scholar residing in İstanbul, with a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans and the Greater Middle East. He tweets at @theerimtanangle
Published time: December 26, 2013 14:08

Under Erdogan Turkey became directly involved in the Syrian crisis as his support for the Muslim Brotherhood brought an ideological context to Turkey’s hostile stance against Assad’s government.
At the beginning of 2011, continuing protests against Assad finally led to the end of the 48-year state of emergency in Syria and an amnesty for political prisoners, not without US and EU pressure. But several months later a well-known US whistleblower Sibel Edmonds claimed that the US and Turkey have been giving logistic aid and military training to the Syrian armed opposition since “April-May 2011”. Edmonds even declared that the US Air Force base in İncirlik (Turkey) was used as a training facility for the so-called Free Syrian Army and other opponents of the Damascus regime – in her own words, “the dissident base in Syria.”
In June 2011, the Assad government declared that 120 members of its security forces were killed by “armed gangs” in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour, located about 16 kilometers from Turkey’s Hatay region. Assad’s troops laid siege to the town and more than 10,000 people subsequently fled to Turkey.
Since then reports have surfaced that Libyan fighters from Misrata went to Syria in an effort to support attempts to overthrow Assad. In addition, rumors equally abounded about Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s mobilization of jihadist fighters to undermine the Baath regime in Syria. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been vocal in his condemnation of Bashar al-Assad, ever since the outbreak of hostilities in Syria.
In spite of the Turkish government’s current belligerent stance on the Damascus regime – be it in the form of a “covert” war or as providing mere “logistic aid and military training” – in the early years of its AKP government, “Turkey proved instrumental in breaking Syria’s international isolation, which paved the way for Assad’s visit to France in 2005. In 2007, a free trade agreement between Turkey and Syria boosted the bilateral trade volume from $796 million in 2006 to $2.5 billion in 2010. In 2008, Turkey even brokered peace talks between Syria and Israel. While the following year, Ankara and Damascus abolished the visa regime, thus far hampering the free movement of people and products between both countries.”
As a result, one can but wonder about the reasons behind Erdoğan’s sudden change of heart. These political interactions took place against the backdrop of Turkey’s growing economic clout. Turkey was quite successful on the international front, promulgating Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s principle of "strategic depth" and his much-vaunted “zero problems policy”. In 2010, I described this pragmatic policy of Turkey as “pseudo-Ottoman”, as a political means of maximizing its economic clout in the region and beyond. In this context of Turkey’s increased economic stature, Turkey’s forays into Pipelineistan, by means of the projected Nabucco Pipeline, appeared under threat from a venture by Iran, Iraq and significantly Syria. Syria’s civil war then seemed like a fortunate obstruction, ensuring the success of Turkey’s designs to thwart Russia’s energy hold on the EU. Since then, however, the Nabucco project has been sidestepped by the operators of the Shah Deniz gas field in the Caspian Sea (BP, Total, Statoil and SOCAR). This economic plot might provide a practical reason for the Turkish Prime Minister’s sudden change of heart.
Beyond such purely pragmatic grounds, Syria’s beleaguered president has suggested a distinctly ideological motive for Tayyip Erdoğan’s unexpected enmity. In an interview given by Bashar al-Assad last October, conducted by the Turkish journalist, Ece Zereycan, and broadcast on the Turkish television channel, Halk TV, he described his earlier cordial relations with the Turkish prime minister, concluding that the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood caused the Turkish state to become an enemy of Syria, while maintaining that the Syrian people are still very fond of Turkey and its people. Bashar al-Assad believes that the Turkish PM, as a Sunni Muslim, who is arguably pursuing a policy of sunnification domestically, has become allied with his Sunni opponents.

The French intellectual, Thierry Meyssan, for his part, is even more outspoken on this topic. Meyssan calls the “Muslim Brotherhood, a secret organization that Erdogan and his team have always been affiliated to, despite their denials”. And in effect, as a pious believer and self-proclaimed Muslim Democrat, Tayyip Erdoğan has been more than outspoken in his support for the Brotherhood, particularly praising the fifth president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, and strongly condemning his removal from office on 3 July 2013 by the “coup that is not a coup” led by General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Edmonds’ [US whistleblower] claims that Turkey under Erdoğan is directly involved in the Syria crisis were apparently confirmed in 2012 when Eric Schmitt published his scoop in the New York Times. In his piece, Schmitt wrote that a “small number of CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government”. Elaborating on his claim, Schmitt added that these “weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” [unnamed American] officials said. In addition to the counties listed, Germany’s involvement was also made public last year. According to the German tabloid newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, (and confirmed by the reputable die Zeit), Angela Merkel’s government dispatched the 84-metre long naval service ship, Oker, to Syria’s coast. The Oker, which usually patrols the eastern Mediterranean for NATO, has the capacity to collect information from locations as deep as 600 kilometers inland: arguably intelligence about Syrian troop movements, in this case information it can then forward to Syrian opposition fighters. At the time, US and British spy agencies also seem to have provided vital information for anti-Assad forces to be forwarded by the German navy ship.

In fact, Turkey’s greater direct involvement in Syria was then also confirmed by the news agency, Reuters. From Dubai, Reuters’ Regan Doherty and Amena Bakr reported that “Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border,” citing some Gulf sources. News of the clandestine Middle East-run ‘nerve center’ working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers – who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – have avoided military involvement so far in Syria. In this instance, it seems that Reuters apparently forgot that Turkey is part and parcel of the Western alliance as a NATO member and close friend of the US. Or is it that only Israel, as an imported nation state in the Middle East, can be publicly termed a member of the Western powers? Nevertheless, Doherty and Bakr’s story clearly shows that Turkey was stepping out of the shadows and publicly assumed a leading role in the mission to topple the Syrian Baath regime.
On the verge of military invasion
Turkey has been close to intervening militarily on a number of occasions, in response to provocations that could arguably be described as false-flag operations.
In late 2012, a civilian home in the Turkish border town of Akçakale was apparently attacked by the Syrian army. And rumors of Turkish troops entering the fray immediately started flying about, but in the end, Turkey settled for firing a number of mortar rounds into Syrian territory. After it transpired that the attack did not constitute a sufficient casus belli [grounds for war] for Turkey, the German media station ZDF (Heute in Europa or ‘Today in Europe’) even reported that Syrian “rebels” attacked a Turkish border town. The Turkish government took revenge for the attack and simply shot back, a retaliation which, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, resulted in the death of three Syrian soldiers.
Earlier this year, another provocation occurred in the small border town of Reyhanlı, also known as “little Syria” locally. Two deadly bomb blasts rocked the town, killing at least 51 people and injuring 140. The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan immediately seized the opportunity to issue war-like threats and conjure up an atmosphere of imminent hostilities, similar to the situation in 1999 when Turkey had also threatened Syria with war on account of Damascus harboring the PKK’s leader, Abdullah Öçalan. In response to the Reyhanlı attack, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç even stated that Syria’s Mukhabarat [intelligence agency] and armed organizations are the usual suspects in planning and carrying out such devilish plans”, clearly laying the blame at Assad’s doorstep.
Still, it seems puzzling why the Syrian regime would perpetrate such a heinous act. And then, Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Güler held a press conference, declaring that “For the time being there is no evidence suggesting that Al-Qaida was involved.” Still, Erdoğan held firm: “These attacks betray the intention of a country on fire which is trying to drag Turkey into the same fire. These attacks, to put it bluntly, are the bloody Baath regime’s attempt to provide an opportunity to its collaborators... These attacks aim to provoke those who live together in peace, in serenity, in fraternity, particularly in Hatay. Most importantly, these attacks target Turkey which has resolved its terror issue, reinforced fraternity, put an end to mothers’ tears,” adding that “This incident is definitely connected to the [Syrian] regime. The [Syrian] regime is behind this incident. That is evident.”
At the time Turkey was prepared to go to war, but first, Tayyip Erdoğan met with US President Barrack Obama, and, as I then wrote “prior to boarding his States-bound flight he announced to the nation that, upon his return, things would be very different”. Erdoğan seemed particularly keen to impose a “no-fly-zone”, similar to that in Libya, as he reiterated during his NBC interview with Ann Curry. During the PM’s talk with the US president, “Obama emphasized that the US ‘reserves the right’ to attack Syria militarily, in spite of a deal previously agreed upon with Russia to pursue a negotiated settlement at a peace conference in Geneva to be held [in June, and now in January 2014]. Still, Obama insisted that the US would not attack Syria unilaterally, arguably willing to relegate the main responsibility to an actor like Turkey as part of a ‘broader alliance’. Being the consummate statesman that he is, President Obama said that the US has ‘no magic formula for dealing with an extraordinary violent and difficult situation like Syria’s’.” And so, war was once more averted and Turkey did not send its troops into Syria.
Turkey has nevertheless been active in the pursuit of its Syria policy, apparently spending more than TL694 million ($386 million) from the Prime Ministry’s discretionary funds to this end in 2012. These discretionary funds can be used by the Prime Minister to finance ‘secret intelligence gathering’ and ‘covert operations’ in the pursuit of ‘national security’ and other ‘high benefits’ of the state, as worded by Article 24 of the Law regarding Management and Control of Public Finances. The quoted figure was published by the Turkish daily Vatan, indicating that over the past ten years the fund has paid out TL2.866 billion. The fact that last year’s discretionary spending was nearly double the amount of 2011 (TL 391 million) has led some to argue that these funds must have been used in furthering Turkey’s goals in Syria. According to Cem Ertür, affiliated with the independent research and media organization Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) based in Montreal, “This fund is financing Turkey’s covert war on Syria.”
Turkey’s unsuccessful attempts to initiate direct foreign intervention in Syria have since been made irrelevant by the use of “chemical weapons” in Syria. The world remembered President Obama’s reference to a “red line” first uttered at a press conference in the White House on 20 August 2012. The fact that the Assad regime possessed stockpiles of these agents became a convenient ploy, particularly following the Ghouta chemical attack on 21 August 2013. Even though US Secretary of State John Kerry was immediately convinced of Assad’s guilt, others have convincingly suggested that the “rebels” backed by Saudi Arabia’s Director of National Intelligence, Bandar bin Sultan, bore responsibility for the attack. The ensuing course of international reaction to the events appears like a movie script, with CBS correspondent Margaret Brennan and John Kerry saying that “[Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week” – a phrase which led to the formulation of a cunning plan by the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov. Now Assad’s chemical weapons are in the process of being destroyed and a Geneva-2 peace conference is scheduled for 22 January 2014.
Turkey’s thwarted attempts to play a major role in Syria appear to have led to its current demotion on the world stage. In another context, the Turkologist, Andranik Ispiryan, even broadly spoke of the failure of what I have termed Turkey’s pseudo-Ottoman ambitions, paraphrasing Davutoğlu’s well-known dictum as “zero neighbors, multiple problems”. Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war at home constitute one of these problems. According to data provided by the UN, Turkey now hosts more than 600,000 Syrians (from the humble 10,000 two years ago), compared to approximately 50,000 Syrian asylum applicants for the whole of the EU. The Turkish government takes its responsibility towards these refugees very seriously. In a joint effort by the Turkish Pharmacists’ Association (Türk Eczacıları Birliği) and the Disaster & Emergency Management Presidency (Afet ve Acil Durum Yönetimi Başkanlığı or AFAD), the Syrian refugees have been incorporated into Turkey’s centralized healthcare system, enabling them to obtain free medication from any pharmacy in the country. Turkey’s Ministry of Health (Sağlık Bakanlığı), led by Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, has also applied a unified system for treating Syrian refugees residing in Turkey’s bigger provinces: in the first instance, these refugees will be able to receive free treatment at family health centers. Turkey’s Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek declared that TL400 million has been allocated to the care of Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey. The government’s care for the Syrian refugees in the country has led to many concerned voices in Turkey speaking out – particularly, those opposed to the AKP government and individuals critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As such, a conspiracy theory even surfaced, claiming that these refugees were to be given the right to vote in Turkey’s elections, which would arguably constitute another boost for Erdoğan and his party. But the Minister of the Interior Muammer Güler issued a statement in response, indicating that no such plans were afoot and that, according to the Turkish Citizenship Law, such rapid transfer of citizenship, which would offer the right to vote, was not possible.

In the end, one cannot but state that Turkey’s Syria policy has not led to any happy conclusions and that, in contrast, Turkey’s standing at home as well as abroad has suffered tremendously. In view of next year’s scheduled elections, one cannot but wonder whether the opposition will be able to oust the AKP from its lofty position, or if the grassroots support enjoyed by Erdoğan and his cohorts will be sufficient to continue the status quo and even turn Turkey’s Prime Minister into the country’s President. Only time will tell.