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Battalion 316, Honduras, and post-coup State-sponsored Terrorism

Posted by Charles II on June 20, 2015

Heather Gies, UpsideDown World:

After the 2009 military coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president said in an exclusive interview with Democracy Now! that Battalion 316 was “already operating” in Honduras under a different name and using “torture to create fear.”

“There was a tremendous resurgence (after the coup) of death squad activity and assassinations of human rights defenders, trade unionists, campesinos, activists of the resistance of all sorts including journalists, lawyers,” Dana Frank, professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz, told teleSUR. “It was very rare in the 20 years before the coup for these kinds of assassinations to happen … but it shot up dramatically after the coup.”

The post-coup links to Battalion 316 terror were palpable, both in the vast increase in human rights abuses, including torture, assassinations, and forced disappearances, as well as the direct connections of Battalion 316 personnel offering their expertise to the coup regime.

Former head of the Battalion 316, School of the Americas graduate Billy Joya, became a prominent coup regime spokesperson, advisor, and aide to de facto president Roberto Micheletti. According to COFADEH, many other retired Battalion 316 agents also became government advisors.

[Professor Adrienne] Pine, author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras,” said that the numbers of state-sponsored disappearances, tortures, and extrajudicial killings since the coup have far exceeded those of the 1980s.

With striking similarity to the fear campaign of the 1980s, COFADEH documented in 2010, along with dozens of other death threats and assassinations, that a former Battalion 316 agent publicly threatened resistance activist Candelario Reyes with forced disappearance and death, saying that killing such a “communist dog” would make the “best example” for other resistance activists.

“You can see the continuity with some of these individuals including the references to the 80s that are conscious references,” said Frank. “It’s terror, it’s deliberately spreading terror.”

Harkening back to 1980s terror was a deliberate strategy to instil fear in perceived political threats. In 2012, COFADEH human rights defender Dina Meza received a series of threats of death and sexual violence by text message signed with the initials CAM, standing for Comando Alvarez Martinez, early 1980s head of Battalion 316 responsible for grave human rights abuses. According to Amnesty International, CAM was used as a pseudonym in numerous death threats against journalists and activists in the wake of the coup.

According to Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. foreign policy in Honduras, the clearest and most alarming examples of post-coup strategies that follow the model of Battalion 316 are the TIGRES special units of the police force and FUSINA inter-agency task forces that bring together military, police, military police, prosecutors, and other government officials under military control.

FUSINA was initially headed by School of the Americas graduate Colonel German Alfaro, former commander of Battalion 15, the military unit in the Aguan Valley region implicated in dozens of post-coup murders of campesino activists. Trained by the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marines, FUSINA is not only troubling for its conglomeration of agency functions under a military mandate, but also for its U.S.-enhanced intelligence capacities.

COFADEH denounced TIGRES as a “crude resurrection” of Battalion 316’s political disappearances, murder, and “criminal behaviour.”

These new constellations of state and military power, designed and deployed to create fear and contain political dissent, have again had a deep social and political impact in Honduras.

“A combination of the ‘soft power’ of USAID and NED-funded (so-called pro-democracy) programs on the one hand, and death squads within the police, the military, and now the military police have succeeded in destroying the post-coup resistance movement,” explained Pine. “This is what makes possible the neoliberal plunder of the country currently underway.”

Courtesy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Posted in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Latin America, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Speaking Truth to Power

Posted by Charles II on December 6, 2014

Philip Agnew, The Guardian, on a meeting of African American leaders on the issue of racial disparities in police shootings:

We told President Obama that we were not the “People’s Spokespeople”. We told him that we had neither the power, positions, nor desires to stop the eruptions in the streets and that they would continue until a radical change happened in this country. We told him that we had no faith in anything, church or state. We told him that the country was on the brink and that nothing short of major capitulations at all levels of the government to the demands of the people could prevent it. Straight talk like that.

Posted in Barack Obama | 2 Comments »

DoJ doctors Holder speech; Obama appoints fox as chicken inspector

Posted by Charles II on August 13, 2013

It’s good it’s August, or I would not believe that the Administration could get this silly.

First item. Dan Froomkin unearthed the archived version of a Holder speech in which he boasts about the prosecution of people committing fraud against homeowners. Quoting from Atrios, the original:

This landmark Initiative, spearheaded by the FBI, was launched to help streamline and advance investigations and prosecutions against fraudsters who allegedly targeted, and preyed upon, Americans struggling to keep their homes. And it’s been a model of success. Over the past 12 months, it has enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file 285 federal criminal indictments and informations against 530 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 73,000 American homeowners – and inflicting losses in excess of $1 billion.

New, fluffier version:

This landmark Initiative, spearheaded by the FBI, was launched to help streamline and advance investigations and prosecutions against fraudsters who allegedly targeted, and preyed upon, Americans struggling to keep their homes. And it’s been a model of success. Over the past 12 months, it has enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file federal criminal charges against 107 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 17,185 American homeowners – and inflicting losses in excess of $95 million.

This is, of course, exactly what Orwell described in 1984.

And then there’s this from Timothy Lee of the Washington Post:

On Friday, President Obama promised to appoint an “independent group” of “outside experts” to review the government’s surveillance programs.

Today, the president formally ordered the formation of this group

The panel will be chosen by, and report to, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper [who lied under oath to Congress].

And there are other signs that the group won’t turn out quite the way the president described it on Friday. Friday’s speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view. The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper.

The stated mission of the group has also shifted. On Friday, Obama said the group would examine “how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.” But today’s memo makes no mention of preventing abuses. Instead, it will examine whether U.S. surveillance activity “optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.”

The era of Obama is over. He has become Mitt Romney.


Update. Perhaps in response to the mocking he got by Timothy Lee, Obama changed course yet again. Timothy Lee:

Update: In a Tuesday email, the White House says that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will not, in fact, choose the members of the Review Group. “The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the Intelligence Community,” writes National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “The panel will not report to the DNI.”

Posted in Barack Obama, corruption, cronies, impunity, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 8 Comments »

Oh, that wiretapping!

Posted by Charles II on June 20, 2013

Maybe now Obama will concede that the powers of the NSA are just a little bit overboard. Nick Wing, HuffPo:

Russ Tice, a former intelligence analyst who in 2005 blew the whistle on what he alleged was massive unconstitutional domestic spying across multiple agencies, claimed Wednesday that the NSA had ordered wiretaps on phones connected to then-Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2004.

Speaking on “The Boiling Frogs Show,” Tice claimed the intelligence community had ordered surveillance on a wide range of groups and individuals, including high-ranking military officials, lawmakers and diplomats.

“Here’s the big one … this was in summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois,” he said. “You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives right now would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, D.C. That’s who they went after, and that’s the president of the United States now.”

Tice maintained that the NSA practice [warrantless wiretapping of international communications in the U.S in 2005] was likely being used the gather records for millions of Americans.

Tice told The Guardian that he believes the NSA has developed the capability “to collect all digital communications word for word.”

Capability is not actuality, but cheez.

It would have been even better if Mr. Tice had mentioned this, say, before the re-authorization of the Patriot Act.

Added. So the FISA court guidelines have come out. Glenn Greenwald and James Ball:

… Fisa court-approved policies allow the NSA to:

• Keep data that could potentially contain details of US persons for up to five years;

• Retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity;

• Preserve “foreign intelligence information” contained within attorney-client communications;

• Access the content of communications gathered from “U.S. based machine[s]” or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance.

Posted in Barack Obama, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | Comments Off on Oh, that wiretapping!

Time to reassess. The Obama campaign to keep Plan B unavailable.

Posted by Charles II on May 7, 2013

Via Atrios, Irin Carmon at Salon

[District Court Judge Edward Korman] repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel’s every other sentence with assertions like, “You’re just playing games here,” “You’re making an intellectually dishonest argument,” “You’re basically lying,” “This whole thing is a charade,” “I’m entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?” and “Contrary to the baloney you were giving me …” He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the “suppression of the rights of women” with the ID requirement for the drug.

Judges saying things like this is unusual. The Department of Justice and the Obama Administration in general need to re-think how much they want to placate the right. On the Plan B story, at least, they simply look like fools.

Meanwhile, I’d like to buy Judge Korman a drink. After dealing with these liars, I’m sure he needs one.

Posted in Barack Obama, Justice Department, women's issues, wrong way to go about it | 3 Comments »

Gag reflex

Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2013

Obama showers praise on Peña Nieto

Barack Obama discusses business and the drug war with Mexican president

US president plays down war on drugs and praises Enrique Peña Nieto for his boldness over economic reforms

The two presidents announced the formation of a high-level working group to explore ways of pushing the economic relationship forward, and Obama showered praise on Peña Nieto for his “boldness” in pushing economic reforms within Mexico

“We had a wonderful relationship with President Calderón,” Obama said, “This is a partnership that will continue.”

Jo Tuckman wrote the article. She didn’t write the headline or the front page link shown in bold. The Guardian is responsible. But just seeing this applied to a president who is generally believed to be completely incompetent, to have been brought into office through electoral fraud and bribery, and who is currently pushing to privatize the national patrimony for the benefit of Big Oil… one almost longs for Dubya.

Added: Richard Grabner‘s take on the visit.

Posted in Barack Obama, Mexico | Comments Off on Gag reflex

Benghazi “consulate” was a CIA station

Posted by Charles II on November 4, 2012

Melvin Goodman, former CIA analyst, at Consortium:

It’s now apparent that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was no ordinary consulate; in fact, it probably was no consulate at all. The consulate’s primary mission was to provide an intelligence platform that would allow the CIA to maintain an operational and analytical role in eastern Libya.

… Both the State Department and the CIA share responsibility for seriously underestimating the security threat in Libya, particularly in Benghazi.

Any CIA component in the Middle East or North Africa is a likely target of the wrath of militant and terrorist organizations because of the Agency’s key role in the global war on terror waged by the Bush administration and the increasingly widespread covert campaign of drone aircraft of the Obama administration.

U.S. programs that included the use of secret prisons, extraordinary renditions, and torture and abuse involved CIA collaboration with despotic Arab regimes, including Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. The U.S. campaign to overthrow Gaddafi didn’t clean the slate of these abuses; it merely opened up the opportunity for militants and Islamists to avenge U.S. actions over the past ten years.

The CIA failure to provide adequate security for its personnel stems from degradation in the operational tradecraft capabilities of the CIA since the so-called intelligence reforms that followed the 9/11 attacks.

There were other complications as well. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was an extremely successful and popular ambassador in Libya, but he had become too relaxed about security in a country that had become a war zone.

The success of the Bush and Obama administrations in compromising the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General has ensured that the Agency’s flaws have gone uncorrected. The politicization of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003 was the worst intelligence scandal in the CIA’s history, but there were no penalties for those who shared CIA Director George Tenet’s willingness to make phony intelligence a “slam dunk.”

This is a balanced analysis that shows that the causes of the attack and the response, both on-the-ground and at senior levels, are distributed around the entire system, from Susan Rice to Ambassador Stevens himself. Barack Obama does need to take responsibility for having failed to end politicization of the Agency and for having failed to end US involvement in torture, not to mention for permitting Rice to speak before the facts were known. I feel fairly certain in saying that a Romney presidency would have done worse. But I want to see a second Obama presidency that does much, much better.

Posted in Barack Obama, terrorism | 2 Comments »

A Pro-Obama video worth watching

Posted by Charles II on October 11, 2012

It’s fun and well-done. I sent it to a right-winger who keeps sending me shovelfuls of BS. Hopefully like garlic to a vampire.

Posted in Barack Obama, Just for fun | 3 Comments »

Bobblespeak translations, 1st presidential debate

Posted by Charles II on October 3, 2012

Jim Lehrer: Thanks to the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates, an Anheuser Busch-run front to foster pretend-debates, the candidates will be presenting their best focus group-tested word salads.

We will limit the salad composition to US-related stuff delivered in what are supposed to be two minute segments which will become Clint Eastwood style ramblings thanks to my incapacity as a moderator. After segments supposedly about the economy, healthcare, and government, but instead dealing with whatever the candidates want to talk about, there will be two minutes or whatever the candidates decide for closing statements or whatever.

If an audience member makes any noise, he or she will be on the next plane to Guantanamo. However, you are required to express your approval that these two corporate-approved candidates will deign to pretend to represent you.

What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?

Obama: I want you to know that I love my wife and am skipping out on our 20th anniversary to prove to her and all Americans that I’m willing to suffer too.

Back before me, someone really screwed things up. I’d say it was the Republicans, but that might sound partisan. Thank God the American people are desperate enough to keep running the hamster wheel rather than rioting in the streets like the Greeks.

The auto industry has recovered even if wages are way down and 5 million low-wage jobs have been created to employ teachers and firefighters laid off to satisfy the Austerian god. Mitt says that if we give money to the richies and let corporations run the joint, all will be well.

I have a different view. I want to adopt Mitt’s basic platform, but be nicer to small businesses and spend a little money on education. Also, we really could save some money if we stopped spending it all on blowing things up and killing people.

So, do you want to vote for George W. Bush II or the man who continued his policies?

Romney: I’m glad to hear you love me more than Michelle, Barry. This is obviously a very tender topic.

People keep coming up to me and my wife and asking if we can help, and of course the answer is no because we have to protect our hundreds of millions, but elect us and something good will happen someday.

My plan has five basic parts. North American energy independence, which will create four million jobs in Canada and leave us in thrall to Ottawa instead of Mecca. Second, do something to make Mexicans buy our stuff. Maybe send gunboats to Tampico or something. Third, do something to China when they cheat, like call them harsh names or threaten to close Wal-Mart. Next, eliminate government. Fifth, more money to billion-dollar a year businesses, which are technically called “small,” in the same sense that someone with herpes technically doesn’t have a sexually transmitted disease because you could get it by French kissing.

Small businesses create all the jobs. I know because I spent my entire career snuffing them out.

Barry believes that government is necessary, whereas we all know that corporations run things like schools and hospitals and jails better.

Lehrer: So, are you a big government tax-and-spend liberal, Mr. President?

Obama: I’m not going to respond because I want to talk about education. We’ve adopted Republican ideas on testing and merit pay and union-busting in what I call Race to the Top and 46 states have bought into it. Now I want to hire a hundred thousand teachers except the Republicans have already cut about three times that number, which means I only want to cut 200,000 teachers.

I’m also willing to adopt Mitt’s plan for corporate tax rates but I want to preserve loopholes for manufacturing and also bribe companies to stay here instead of to go overseas.

And I’ll adopt Mitt’s plan to drill baby drill, but I’d like to spend a few billion on solar and wind.

Also austerity and/or tax cuts. Now, I want austerity and some tax cuts, while Mitt wants austerity and tax cuts measured only in oodles

[This is as far as I got. It really was remarkable for its evasions by the candidates and ineffectual noises by the moderator.]

Posted in 2012, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney | Comments Off on Bobblespeak translations, 1st presidential debate

The basic debate factcheck

Posted by Charles II on October 3, 2012

Romneycat reviews the debate

All from NYT:

Catherine Rampell: Mr. Romney promised to create 12 million jobs over the next four years if he is elected president. That is actually about as many jobs as the economy is already expected to create, according to some economic forecasters.

Robert Pear [fact check FAIL]: Listing his objections to the new health care law, Mr. Romney said: “It puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.” [Pear fails to point out that the Board cannot act without the assent of Congress, meaning that this is a lie, and that if people have the money to pay for it, of course they can get treatment, so a double lie].

Richard Perez-Pena: “I’m not going to cut education funding,” including grants for college, Mr. Romney said…. The governor’s position paper on education says he would “refocus Pell Grants dollars on the students who need them most,” suggesting that fewer people would qualify. Democrats also interpret the budget plan of his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, to mean a steep cut in the size of the program.

Catherine Rampell [fact check FAIL]: Mr. Romney said repeatedly that Massachusetts has the top-ranked schools in the country.

Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a large national standardized test, The Daily Beast ranked Massachusetts at the top. [but what connection is there between that and Romney policies as governor?]

John Broder: A number of readers, including Patty Freeman-Lynde from Athens, asked about Mr. Romney’s charge that half the companies invested in under the president’s green energy stimulus have gone out of business.

That is a gross overstatement. Of nearly three dozen recipients of loans under the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, only three are currently in bankruptcy, although several others are facing financial difficulties.

Trip Gabriel: Mr. Romney rejected the charge. “I’m not going to cut education funding,” he said. “I don’t have a plan to cut education funding.”

But in the past Mr. Romney has said he would do just that.

Richard Perez Pena: Mr. Obama said of his opponent that “when he tells a student you should borrow money from your parents to go to college,” it calls into question whether Mr. Romney realizes that some people “don’t have that option.” [but maybe Romney was referring to borrowing money to start a business, which certainly resonates with the majority of American families who do not have the money to start a business].

Robert Pear [fact check FAIL]: Mr. Romney said in the debate that Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul would allow the federal government to “take over health care,” an assertion rejected by the president.

The 2010 health care law clearly expands the role of the federal government. But it also builds on the foundation of private health insurance, providing subsidies for millions of low- and moderate-income people to buy private insurance.[Pear manages not to state that Robamneycare is clearly not a “take-over”]

Annie Lowrey: Mr. Romney argued that Dodd-Frank, Mr. Obama’s financial regulatory reform law, designated certain financial firms as “too big to fail,” giving them a “blank check” and implicit government backing.

The law does designate some financial institutions as “systemically important.” But it also puts them under significant additional regulatory scrutiny and requires them to write “living wills,” telling the government how to unwind them.

Michael Cooper: Repealing Mr. Obama’s health care law, which Mr. Romney said he would do, would actually increase the federal deficit.[unstated: this refutes the Romney claim that Robamneycare adds to the deficit]

So, there you have it. Romney will get a bounce because he gained stature simply by standing on the stage with the President and not coming off as a complete ass.

But he’s still a lying schmuck, and his policies cannot save this country.

Meanwhile, better fact checkers, please. Also, a debate moderator would help.

Posted in Barack Obama, Mitt Romney | Comments Off on The basic debate factcheck

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