“The rebel leaders have offered up a host of excuses: they want the U.S. government to provide sophisticated weapons first; they want all Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon to withdraw; they want to be in a winning position before talks begin; they want Assad to agree to resign as a precondition of talks.
Husseini: That seems to be what you were saying.
Ghadbian: Let me be very specific: We supported every political initiative to end this conflict. We supported the Arab League initiative, which begins with Assad delegating his powers to his vice president, we thought that was a good idea. We supported the elements of Geneva One. We were willing -- in fact we were working -- to go to Geneva Two. But, our understanding of Geneva One is the following: there will be a transitional government with full executive authorities, including the security and military areas, which means Assad has no role in these areas. That's our understanding of Geneva One. So, we were going to Geneva Two with this understanding. We wanted to include an element of accountability in the negotiations, in the political process. And that is why we believe Bashar al-Assad has committed crimes against humanity. And he is not acceptable as a person. We believe that his departure from the scene is a positive step for any political solution, by any means. And definitely after the use of chemical weapons, he's absolutely not acceptable. He, his brother and those who are implicated in the use of chemical weapons.
Now, there are a lot of people who support Bashar al-Assad. They are Syrians. Some of them are forced to do so. Some of them are in fact under the propaganda of the regime. Some of them are defending their privileges. It's those elements, in fact, we want to talk to. Those, those are Syrians and that's what we want to talk about. So -- again -- we want a political solution that -- again -- would include some element of accountability. And -- again -- we believe Bashar al-Assad is a basically destructive element in any negotiations. So, that's the way we understand Geneva and any political solutions after the use of chemical weapons. He should, in fact, be brought to justice; preferably very soon. Any international effort by our friends at the UN should include that. Otherwise, we would not support it.
Husseini: Now, just to clarify, it's not a new position -- it's been your consistent position over time -- that you will not sit down with him for negotiations, you want to sit down and negotiate with other factions.
Husseini: Well prior to this, over the past two and a half years, you will not sit down with Bashar al-Assad --
Ghadbian: Well, that position evolved. Early on -- before the regime committed atrocities on the mass scale -- early on we were, people were asking Bashard al-Assad before the revolution, to take serious, reformists steps to bring Syria into a democratic kind of conclusion. But, you know, the regime was using lethal weapons, using live munitions from day one, in Dara, remember. And so, immediately, as the regime continued, and it was obvious that the regime did not believe in a political solution, Bashar al-Assad up to the use of chemical weapons, he communicated to us, directly and indirectly, that he can achieve a military victory and he's working toward that end. He's talking Geneva, but he's not going to go to Geneva. Why should he talk about his departure Why should he talk about his stepping down? I mean, it doesn't make sense. But, I think, for us again, since the Arab League initiative, we took that position that, if he in fact were to delegate his powers -- at that point delegating powers; maybe he could stay for a while. - But as he continues to commit atrocities, crimes against humanity, against Syrian people, we were clear -- we would not negotiate with individuals who committed crimes against humanity and against the Syrian people. That's a principle position. We continue to stick by that, position.
The prosecution, when pushing for a 60 year sentence for Manning stated: "There is value in deterrence, Your Honor. This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information. National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously. Punish Pfc. Manning’s actions, Your Honor.” So, the military is incapable of maintaining discipline except upon threat of penalty of decades behind bars.
The AP reports: "The House narrowly rejected a challenge to the National Security Agency's secret collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records Wednesday night after a fierce debate ... The vote was 217-205 on an issue that created unusual political coalitions in Washington, with libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats pressing for the change against the Obama administration [and] the Republican establishment..." The New York Times writes "disagreements over the program led to some unusual coalitions." Similarly, NBC opined the "amendment earned fierce opposition from an unusual set of allies, ranging from the Obama administration to the conservative Heritage Foundation." [Emphasis added throughout.]
A major way the establishment keeps principled progressives and conscientious conservatives hating instead of dialoguing is by not acknowledging all they have in common -- and when it is acknowledged, treat is as a freak instance.
"The House had been scheduled to vote on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) requiring President Barack Obama to withdraw from Libya within 15 days. The measure cites the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says the president must get approval from Congress if a military operation lasts 60 days or more.
"But at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Wednesday, GOP leaders were surprised by members' strong concerns about the Libya operation. Some conservatives were prepared to support Mr. Kucinich's resolution, Republican aides said." [Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2011]
Gary Pruitt, the president and CEO of the AP spoke at the National Press Club this week; Angela Greiling Keane, the Press Club president, moderated the event. I submitted the question "Do you think major media outlets had sufficiently scrutinized the Obama administrations targeting of whistleblowers including Thomas Drake and Bradley Manning? Didn't that -- along with the attacks on Wikileaks -- pave the way for targeting mainstream media outlets like the AP?" A version of this was asked along with a related question toward the end of the event: See more at washingtonstakeout.com.
[This was posted on WashingtonStakeout on Sunday]
This morning I questioned Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Rogers — the chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees — as they walked out of ABC studios: “Many Americans are concerned about the revelations of this week and how they square with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Let’s start there. What does the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution say?”
Feinstein said it was “protection against search and seizure,” which is true but very limited. I tried to interject, “the measure is probable cause” — but she went on at some length about the alleged legality of the programs that became public this week, while avoiding the question of their Constitutionality. [transcript below]
The Fourth Amendment states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
That would seem to totally contradict the programs exposed this week. It’s as though the government photocopies all of your papers.
The attitude of defending unconstitutional programs that in effect have been made legal gives new meaning to the old Kissinger quote: “Illegal we do immediately; unconstitutional takes a little longer.” See: Bush-Era Spying ‘Made Legal’ Under Obama.
In the course of my trying to get them to address the Fourth Amendment, I attempted to read it, which didn’t seem as though it was to their liking and they walked away.
But first, Rep. Rogers claimed that the programs reported on this week are “not targeted on Americans. It has to be a non-U.S. person that is believed to be on foreign soil. That is a huge difference from what is being portrayed in the media.” I noted that this was clearly false, certainly for the phone metadata story. This seemed to upset him.
I then read most of the Fourth Amendment, Rogers appeared extremely uncomfortable, said he didn’t want a “debate” — I said it wasn’t a debate, I wanted them to square the programs with the Fourth Amendment. Feinstein said they would do this “another time.”
Marcy Wheeler who has written extensively about this notes: “Just about every time Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers talk about these programs, they confuse the dragnet of American’s contacts with PRISM, which isn’t supposed to involve Americans. That says something about how closely they understand them.”
Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee states: “There’s a reason that Senator Feinsten and Rep. Rogers keep dodging questions about secret government spying: it simply can’t be squared with the Fourth Amendment. Neither has acknowledged the full extent of the government’s surveillance operations, which extend well beyond last week’s disclosures. And while those programs have gained legal cover, it’s only because the congressional committees they lead have utterly failed their responsibility to check & balance executive abuses.”
– Sam Husseini
Sam Husseini: Good morning.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Good morning.
SH: Senator, many Americans are concerned about the revelations this week and how they square with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Let’s start there. What does the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution say?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Well, it’s protection against search and seizure. The program here –
SH: — and the measure is probable cause –
DF: The program here is legal. It has been passed by the Department of Justice as a legal program. It is carefully audited. You have inspectors generals independently looking at it. It is reviewed by the court every three months. And the court — when they pass out one document which was the document that was revealed — which said it could continue for another three months, the court also passes another statement which puts strictures on the program for the remaining three months.
SH: — The Fourth –
Rep. Mike Rogers: Can I interject there: the important part of that as well–as all of this is right — is that is not targeted on Americans. It has to be a non-U.S. person believed to be on foreign soil. That is a huge difference from what is being portrayed in the media.
SH: That is not the case with the program pertaining to phone data. The Fourth Amendment stipulates that people’s papers shall not be violated but upon probable cause.
MR: I’m not sure who you are with. I am not sure, we’re getting into a debate here.
SH: I am quoting the Fourth Amendment here.
MR: — I understand. But case law also –
SH: — supported by oath or affirmation –
DF: I think there’s no sense –
MR: If you want a debate we can do that later.
SH: I don’t want a debate –
DF: We’ll do that another time.
SH: I’m just quoting the Fourth Amendment. I want you to square this program with the Fourth Amendment.
The whole thing with Snowden has me thinking some of when I was just out of school. For freaky reasons, I stayed in NYC and took a job with Moody's Investors Service as a programmer and assistant database administrator. I was 22. I was amazed that I could get a good paycheck (though certainly modest by Wall St standards) for very little actual work. Then it hit me: They were not paying me for what I was doing, they were in effect paying me for what I wasn't doing: Using my time and energy to change the world.