“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."

Monday, May 23, 2016

The account of John Crane, a former senior Pentagon investigator, appears to undermine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other major establishment figures who argue that there were established routes for Snowden other than leaking to the media.

Snowden calls for whistleblower shield after claims by new Pentagon source

Edward Snowden has called for a complete overhaul of US whistleblower protections after a new source from deep inside the Pentagon came forward with a startling account of how the system became a “trap” for those seeking to expose wrongdoing.

The account of John Crane, a former senior Pentagon investigator, appears to undermine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other major establishment figures who argue that there were established routes for Snowden other than leaking to the media. 

Crane, a longtime assistant inspector general at the Pentagon, has accused his old office of retaliating against a major surveillance whistleblower, Thomas Drake, in an episode that helps explain Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency disclosures. Not only did Pentagon officials provide Drake’s name to criminal investigators, Crane told the Guardian, they destroyed documents relevant to his defense. 

Snowden, responding to Crane’s revelations, said he had tried to raise his concerns with colleagues, supervisors and lawyers and been told by all of them: “You’re playing with fire.”

Edward Snowden is calling for ‘iron-clad’ protections for whistleblowers.
Edward Snowden is calling for ‘iron-clad’ protections for whistleblowers. Photograph: Lotta Hardelin/AFP/Getty Images

He told the Guardian: “We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories. Protect the people who go to members of Congress with oversight roles, and if their efforts lead to a positive change in policy – recognize them for their efforts. There are no incentives for people to stand up against an agency on the wrong side of the law today, and that’s got to change.”

Snowden continued: “The sad reality of today’s policies is that going to the inspector general with evidence of truly serious wrongdoing is often a mistake. Going to the press involves serious risks, but at least you’ve got a chance.”

Financially ruined

Thomas Drake’s legal ordeal ruined him financially and ended in 2011 with all serious accusations against him dropped. His case served as a prologue to Snowden’s. Now Crane’s account has led to a new investigation at the US justice department into whistleblower retaliation at the Pentagon that may serve as an epilogue – one Crane hopes will make the Pentagon a safe place for insiders to expose wrongdoing and illegality. 

“If we have situations where we have whistleblowers investigated because they’re whistleblowers to the inspector general’s office, that will simply shut down the whole whistleblower system,” Crane told the Guardian.

Crane, who has not previously given interviews, has told his explosive story in a new book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing In The Age of Snowden by Mark Hertsgaard, from which the Guardian is running extracts. The Guardian has partnered with Der Spiegel and Newsweek Japan on Crane’s story.

Thomas Drake’s legal ordeal ruined him financially.
Thomas Drake’s legal ordeal ruined him financially. Photograph: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

“When someone becomes a whistleblower, they’re making a serious, conscious decision,” Crane said. 

“They’re making a decision that can change their lives, change their futures, impact family life, too. There needs to be this certain unbreakable trust. Confidentiality is that trust and that can’t ever be violated.”

Snowden cited Drake’s case as a reason for his lack of faith in the government’s official whistleblower channels. 

“When I was at NSA, everybody knew that for anything more serious than workplace harassment, going through the official process was a career-ender at best. It’s part of the culture,” Snowden told the Guardian.

“If your boss in the mailroom lies on his timesheets, the IG might look into it. But if you’re Thomas Drake, and you find out the president of the United States ordered the warrantless wiretapping of everyone in the country, what’s the IG going to do? They’re going to flush it, and you with it.”

While Drake’s case is well known in US national security circles, its internal history is not.

Major source

In 2002, Drake and NSA colleagues contacted the Pentagon inspector general to blow the whistle on an expensive and poorly performing tool, Trailblazer, for mass-data analysis. Crane, head of the office’s whistleblower unit, assigned investigators. For over two years, with Drake as a major source, they acquired thousands of pages of documents, classified and unclassified, and prepared a lengthy secret report in December 2004 criticizing Trailblazer, eventually helping to kill the program. As far as Crane was concerned, the whistleblower system was working.

But after an aspect of the NSA’s warrantless mass surveillance leaked to the New York Times, Drake himself came under investigation and eventually indictment. Drake was suspected of hoarding documentation – exactly what inspector-general investigators tell their whistleblowers to do. 

“They made it clear to keep [documents] wherever possible, and obviously properly handle anything that was classified,” Drake remembered.

Crane feared that his own colleagues had told the FBI about Drake. He suspected the Pentagon inspector general’s lead attorney, Henry Shelley, whom Crane said had earlier suggested working with the justice department about the leak, had done so. A confrontation yielded what Crane considered to be evasions. 
“The top lawyer would not reveal to me whether or not Drake’s confidentiality had been compromised or not. That was a concern … Normally I expect direct answers,” Crane said. 

When Drake’s attorneys sought potentially exculpatory information from the inspector general’s office, they learned that much of it had been “destroyed before the defendant was charged, pursuant to a standard document destruction policy”, according to a 2011 letter from prosecutors. 

Crane was livid. All relevant regulations mandated keeping the documents, not destroying them. But a high-ranking colleague, Lynne Halbrooks, prevented Crane from investigating the document destruction. He suspected Shelley and Halbrooks of sacrificing a whistleblower and misleading the justice department and a federal judge, all in a case centering around the cover-up of NSA bulk surveillance.

Forced out

Crane’s relationship with his superiors spiraled downward until they forced him out in 2013, months before Snowden’s revelations. The next year, he filed a complaint with a federal agency that works with whistleblowers, the Office of Special Counsel. In March this year, it found a “substantial likelihood” that the Pentagon inspector general’s office improperly destroyed the Drake documents and arranged, with Pentagon consent, for the justice department inspector general to investigate.

Shelley, still the Pentagon inspector general’s senior counsel, declined to answer questions but said he was “certain my name will be cleared” by the new investigation.

Hal brooks, the Office of Special Counsel and the justice department inspector general declined to comment for this story.

Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon inspector general, noted that her office and the Office of Special Counsel jointly requested the justice department investigation. 

“It is important to point out that there has been no determination on the allegations, and it is unfair to characterize the allegations otherwise at this point. DoD OIG will cooperate fully with the DoJ OIG’s investigation of this matter and looks forward to the results of that investigation,” Serchak said. 

Crane considers this latest inquiry a bellwether for whether the whistleblower system can reform itself in a post-Snowden era.

“Snowden responded to the way Drake was handled. The Office of Special Council investigation regarding destruction of possibly exculpatory documents regarding Drake might be the end of this saga,” Crane said.


  1. Washington: Choosing which laws to follow, change and break at a time and place of it’s choosing:

    Robert Burns of AP reported on the visit inside Syria of the head of the US Middle East Command (Centcm), Army Gen. Joseph Votel, to assess the progress in US training of the Syrian Democratic Forces division. It is said to comprise 25,000 Kurdish fighters of the leftist YPG or People’s Protection Units along with 5,000 or 6,000 Arab fighters allied with the Kurds against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).
    A few dozen US troops are on the ground there, training the SDF, but the latter complain that Washington has provided them with no medium or heavy weaponry.
    The US press pool was instructed not to say in what kind of aircraft Votel arrived or where exactly he met with the SDF, but the Arabic press is saying it was at Kobane, the largely Kurdish town that US air support helped save from deadly Daesh assaults.
    The pro-Muqtada al-Sadr Iraqi news site,, denounced Votel’s visit as a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty, saying the US had declined to coordinate the visit with the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. The site also accused the US of supporting, not just the leftist Kurds and their allies, but also hard line Salafi groups like the Army of Islam and the Freemen of Syria; it even said US support extended to the al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front (this is not true), and that Saudi Arabia and Turkey were also behind the Salafis.

    While the Obama administration’s initial commitments inside Syria were small, when you have a situation where the Centcom commander is illegally sneaking into another country to consult with 31,000 US-backed local troops, the potential for mission creep and troop escalation is serious.


    (CNN)Four people have died in the span of four days on Mount Everest including a Sherpa, while two others have gone missing.

    Danger is inherent in climbing the world's highest peak. And there are fatalities -- more than 200 climbers have died since Tenzing Norway and Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent in 1953.

    1. When your goal is to show some someone that you are a death defying bad ass and death wins and your dumb bad ass dies, you made your point. You died for nothing.

    2. Hillary, contrary to hospital records and birth certificate, must have been born sometime after
      1953, as she has stated she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who was a total unknown until he climbed Everest.

      She's younger than she looks....the Old Hag....

      I recall watching the news of that first climb of Everest.

      Personally, I suspect it likely that some Sherpas had done it many times in the past.

  3. Was EgyptAir Crash A Terrorist Attack ?


    News interview with Raymond Ibrahim

    1. May 23, 2016

      EgyptAir Flight MS804: No Random Target

      By Mark Christian and Joe Herring

      We are entering a new era – one in which terrorists place bombs in the sky and detonate them whenever they see fit. EgyptAir MS804 is just the latest example of their ability to transform an airliner into an IED.

      Authorities almost immediately agreed that MS804 was likely the victim of a terrorist attack. However, they aren't able to discern how that took place, given the extensive passenger screening the flight underwent on each leg of its journey.

      Ascertaining the method requires a look at the history of this particular flight and an honest appraisal of who stood to gain from the destruction of this plane and the brutal slaughter of its passengers and crew.

      Since 9/11, airline security has been focused on passengers and their luggage. However, recent terror events such as the explosion of the Russian jetliner over the Sinai Peninsula in October make the case that our focus ought to turn to those who manage airport security and/or have access to aircraft while it is on the ground. Every plane coming out of an area of unrest and Islamist activity is a potential bomb in the skies.

      This plane, which originated in Cairo as MS803, was set for a round-trip journey to Paris. The plane was on the ground in Cairo a full 24 hours before departing for Paris at 4:50 pm (Cairo time). It arrived in Paris at 9:40 pm (Paris time), and by 10:45 pm, it had taken off for the return leg of the journey.

      While on the ground in Paris, there was little time for a thorough security check of the aircraft, but due to the short turnaround, there was equally little time to smuggle a bomb on board, especially in light of the increased security presence at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

      Exactly six hours from the time it originally departed Cairo, the plane made its two inexplicable maneuvers before disappearing entirely, almost certainly from a catastrophic mid-air explosion.

      This timeline would suggest that the lethal device was already on the airliner before it left Cairo.

      The terrorists who placed the explosive device on MS804, I believe, were embedded among the security personnel entrusted with sweeping the aircraft in Cairo for potential danger....

  4. US should accept Russian offer to coordinate strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra

    US should consider Russian offer

    Summary⎙ Print US-Russian joint action would be a step forward to defeat al-Qaeda affiliate; US rejects Russian bid to designate Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam as terrorist groups; Nasrallah vows deeper commitment to Syria following death of top commander.

    Posted May 22, 2016

    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu suggested May 19 that Russia and US-led coalition forces should undertake “joint action … to plan and conduct strikes against Jabhat al-Nusra, which does not support the cease-fire, as well as against convoys of arms and fighters crossing the Syrian-Turkish border.”

    Jabhat al-Nusra Front is al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and an outlier to the UN-mediated political talks and cessation of hostilities. The peace talks and cessation, including UN Security Council Resolution 2254, are the result of US-Russian collaboration and leadership, which has produced the best hope, to date, of ending the more than five-year war.

    Shoigu’s offer is in line with UN Security Council authorities on Syria. There are numerous resolutions targeting Jabhat al-Nusra and penalizing parties that support it. Resolution 2254, for example, calls on “Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with al-Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups … and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned cease-fire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities.”

    Jabhat al-Nusra, perhaps as a result of Russian and US airstrikes, has intensified its own attacks throughout Syria, in direct violation of the cease-fire, sometimes in collaboration with other Salafi groups. Most notably, the al-Qaeda affiliate is reportedly seeking to establish its own "emirate" around Idlib and is wooing Salafi fellow travelers to its cause. Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham jointly attacked the Alawite village of Zara in Hama province May 12, massacring 19 civilians.

    It would seem, then, that Moscow’s suggestion to combine efforts against Jabhat al-Nusra might at least get a fair hearing from the United States. But Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis dismissed the offer May 20, saying, “We do not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria. Russian operations are supporting and enabling the Assad regime and our focus is solely on degrading and defeating [IS]," adding that the United States had not received a formal proposal from Moscow.

    For our part, we find the Russian offer, at a minimum, worth exploring, and would encourage steps toward joint action. The United States and Russia are aligned, in accordance with numerous UN Security Council resolutions, in efforts to defeat Jabhat al-Nusra and IS. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn have proposed greater US-Russian intelligence coordination and plans for concrete actions to prevent al-Qaeda, IS and other terrorist organizations from obtaining fissile material to develop nuclear weapons.

    There is no viable political settlement or cessation of hostilities in Syria without an eventual military defeat of both organizations....

    Read more:

  5. Obama has lifted ban on sales of weapons to Vietnam. He has finally done something that makes some sense.

  6. For $145 million dollars Hillary sold 20% of our uranium capacities to the Russians.

    I don't think even Livia Drusilla would have done this.

    Livia, at least, seemed to believe in the gods, and surely believed in the Roman Emoire.

  7. Joint forces liberate 2 areas in northern Fallujah, dozens of ISIS members killed

    ( Anbar – On Monday the leadership of al-Hashed al-Shaabi in Anbar Province announced liberating two areas in the northern entrance of Fallujah (62 km west of Baghdad), while pointed out to the killing of dozens of ISIS members during the operation.

    The media director of al-Hashed al-Shaabi forces in Anbar Captain Essam El-Din Abdullah said in a press statement obtained by, “The joint security forces were able to cleanse the areas of al-Zagharid and Abu Sidira (10 km north of Fallujah),” pointing out that, “Dozens of ISIS members were killed during the liberation battles of the northern entrance of Fallujah.”

    Abdullah added, “The security forces are working to open safe ways for the military vehicles and tanks to break into the remaining areas in the northern entrance of Fallujah.”


  8. .

    Though the RCP poll average shows Trump with a slight lead, Hillary still has a big lead in delegates count. However, even there the trend seems to be in Trump's favor. Hillary's delegate lead has been cut by 20% in just the last week.


    1. Eh, ya better take Everything with a giant grain of salt, right now, Quirk.

      Even the normally very good ABC/Wash. Post poll greatly over-sampled "White, Non-College," this time around. It's almost like no one is trying very hard, yet.

    2. .

      Merely commenting on the apparent trend. Not sure whether the delegate count they came up with is based on the polls.


    3. They are based on polls. Pretty loosely, too. For instance, they have Pa as a toss-up, even though it's polling 5% Dem.

      Go to your link, and click on the names of the states, and it will take you to the polling for those states.

  9. Freddie Gray News -


    The reason he was found not guilt is because he was not guilty.

    Some other trials in the case still ahead.

    1. My sentiments exactly -

      Officer Edward Nero acquitted in Freddie Gray case

      posted at 12:01 pm on May 23, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

      We’ve been expecting this news for a while and now it’s official. The bench trial for Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero – he of the Freddie Gray case – has come to a close and Nero was found not guilty on all charges. NBC News has the breaking story with ongoing updates

      One of the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray was found not guilty on all counts in Baltimore on Monday.

      Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams cleared Officer Edward Nero of charges of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

      Nero, 30, was one of two officers who initially made eye contact with Gray before his arrest. Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken while he was transported in a police van — shackled and handcuffed, but without a seat belt.

      Baltimore police officer Edward Nero arrives at the Baltimore courthouse for his trial this month. AP

      Nero faced charges of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

      When I discussed this case last week I predicted that this was going to be the likely outcome. Nero’s attorneys wisely chose to go with a bench trial rather than taking their chances with a jury pool drawn from a highly agitated community steeped in attacks on the police coming from both the media and City Hall. The judge was the final arbiter here and heard all of the evidence which showed that Nero was only tangentially involved in the arrest and, in fact, only came in physical contact with Freddie Gray once during the entire arrest procedure. It’s not terribly shocking that the charges would fall through.

      In an apparent effort to appease the public, City Hall is putting out the word that Nero may have been found not guilty in court, but he will still face internal review at the police department and could be subject to some form of sanctions or discipline there.

      The long term fallout from this decision will once again fall on the shoulders of outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and prosecutor Marilyn Mosby. The Mayor’s time on the public stage is pretty much done anyway, but Mosby clearly has been eying bigger things in her future. Her handling of this case from day one, however, has been nothing short of a catastrophe. Rushing to bring charges against all of the officers and joining the mayor in promising “Justice for Freddie Gray” rather than simply justice for all involved has further inflamed tensions around Charm City and she helped to build up expectations that the officers were all guilty before they’d had their day in court. Now, with one hung jury and one not guilty finding, her case is falling apart on all sides. There are several more trials to come and she may still find one or more where she can get a conviction on something, but the raw, partisan political nature of this fishing expedition has been exposed.

      But those, as I said, are the long term implications and they are primarily political. Of more concern is the short term reaction from the public. The moment the verdict was announced, MSNBC was on the air with various “civic leaders” who were already condemning the judge, along with the justice system in general and claiming that there had been no justice delivered. Guards were escorting Nero out of the courthouse under protection because of the obvious concerns over violence. We all saw what happened last time the city went over the edge because of this case and we can only hope that Baltimore doesn’t once again go up in flames after the sun goes down.

      Hot Air

  10. Bernie has 46% of the popular vote and 7% of the 'Super Delegates'.

    The 'fix' was in for Hillary from the beginning and all we can hope for is chaos, confusion and melee at the Democrat Convention.

    The corrupt Democrat Party is running true to form and nominating Ms. Corruption herself.

  11. "analysis paralysis"

    EgyptAir Flight 804 Crash: Assume Terrorism Until Conclusively Proven Otherwise

    There is no place for analysis paralysis in the global fight against terrorism.

    May 23, 2016

    Joseph Klein

    Finally, the pilot of Flight 804, Mohammed Shakeer, a devout Muslim said to have had a link with a prominent Muslim Brotherhood operative who recruited for jihad in Libya, reportedly told colleagues before the fateful flight that he was ready to die. Shakeer’s brother was quoted as saying, “my brother Mohammed [the pilot] called me before he took off on that fateful day and asked me to pray for him and I do consider him a martyr.“

  12. Out of 44 Democratic Senators, and one Independent, Bernie was able to come up with ONE endorsement.

    I think he got Two out of the House.

    He is, basically, the least highly thought of legislator in congress.

    If you throw out All of the "super-delegates," Hillary still wins - 3 Million more votes, and 285 more pledged delegates.

  13. Ah, I agree, she's got the votes.

    Just felt like hammering the Democrats.

    If I only had Hillary or Bernie I'd vote for Hillary as I don't like Venezuela and Bernie would get us there more quickly than Hillary, and we need a functioning Wall Street.

  14. Official journalists announce killing ISIS Wali of Fallujah along with 35 fighters

    ( Baghdad – On Monday, official journalists with the Ministry of Defense announced, that more than 42 ISIS fighters were either killed or wounded, including the so-called ISIS Wali of Fallujah during the ongoing military operations that were launched to liberate the city (62 km west of Baghdad).

    The journalists said in a statement received by, “Baghdad Operations Command managed to kill more than 36 ISIS fighters, including the so-called ISIS Wali of Fallujah Haji Hamza, along with a number of his companions and the senior leader Abu Amer al-Ansari, as well as wounding six others members.”

    The statement added, “Baghdad Operations also managed to destroy a vehicle belonging to ISIS in Rashad area, as well as destructing ISIS communication headquarters in al-Roufa area.”


    1. .

      'Official journalists' with the Ministry of Defense?

      Doesn't that sound a little oxymoronic?


  15. Strikes in Syria

    Attack, fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted seven strikes in Syria:

    -- Near Shadaddi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

    -- Near Raqqah, three strikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb-making facility and an ISIL oil pump-jack.

    -- Near Ayn Isa, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

    -- Near Mar’a, two strikes struck an ISIL weapons storage facility and destroyed an ISIL rocket rail.

    Strikes in Iraq

    Attack and fighter aircraft conducted 10 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Huwayjah, a strike suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

    -- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck an ISIL weapons facility and an ISIL improvised weapons factory and destroyed three ISIL bunkers and two ISIL tunnel entrances.

    -- Near Habbaniyah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL supply cache, and an ISIL vehicle, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Mosul, five strikes struck an ISIL communications control center and destroyed two ISIL vehicle bombs, two ISIL mortar systems, and two ISIL supply caches and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar system.

    Additionally, due to an administrative error the following strikes in Syria were not included in the May 22 news release:

    -- Near Raqqah, two strikes destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

    -- Near Ayn Isa, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

  16. an ISIL oil pump-jack....

    That's the first I've read of them nailing a pump-jack.

    About time.