Congrats

To Cyndi Lauper, the first woman to win Best Score at the Tonys. I recently read her memoir and was surprised to learn why she’s such a staunch feminist. She describes growing up in an Italian family, watching her mother and aunt have their dreams stomped on and their ideas denigrated by the men in the family, and how determined it made her to live her own life. (Great read, by the way.)

Quote of the day

Peter Scheer of Truthdig:

As a senator, Barack Obama was vehemently opposed to the abuses of power by the Bush administration. He rejected the “false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.” If President Obama changed his mind about that, it seems to me there was a perfectly appropriate time to say so, and that would have been, at the latest, before the 2012 election.

Is Obama afraid of the CIA?

I’ve always assumed so, and when it comes to issues like this, I believe he’s too afraid of being killed to change the status quo. (I don’t see that as a character flaw, simply a fact.) It will take a sustained public insistence to break up the intelligence apparatus, and this leak may be the thing that does it. I hope so. Brad Blog:

During my interview last night with 27-year CIA analyst Ray McGovern on the Mike Malloy Show (which I’ve been guest hosting all this week), the man who used to personally deliver the CIA’s Presidential Daily Briefings to George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan, among other Presidents, offered an extraordinarily chilling thought — particularly coming from someone with his background.

In a conversation at the end of the hour (audio and transcript below), as I was trying to pin him down for an opinion on whether or not he felt it was appropriate for CIA Director Leon Panetta to have reportedly attempted to block a lawful investigation into torture and other war crimes committed by the CIA, McGovern alluded to a book about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and noted he felt it likely that both Panetta and President Obama may have reason to fear certain elements of the CIA.

“Let me just leave you with this thought,” he said, “and that is that I think Panetta, and to a degree President Obama, are afraid — I never thought I’d hear myself saying this — I think they’re afraid of the CIA.”…

McGovern went on to note “the stakes are very high here,” in relation to Attorney General Eric Holder’s recently announced investigation of the CIA now under the direction of Panetta. “His main advisers and his senior staff are liable for prosecution for war crimes. The War Crimes statute includes very severe penalties, including capital punishment for those who, if under their custody, detainees die. And we know that at least a hundred have, so this is big stakes here.”

He then recommended James W. Douglass’ book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

“He makes a very very persuasive case that it was President Kennedy’s, um, the animosity that built up between him and the CIA after the Bay of Pigs, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because he was reaching out to the Russians and so forth and so on. It’s a very well-researched book and his conclusion is very alarming,” the long-time CIA veteran noted in what turned out to be a chilling end to our interview in which he described “two CIAs”.

One, he says, was created by President Truman to “give him the straight scoop without any fear or favor. And then its covert action arm, which really doesn’t believe — which doesn’t belong in this agency.” McGovern referred to that CIA “advisedly” as the President’s “own personal gestapo” which acts without oversight by the Congressional committees once tasked to do so.

“And so if you’re asking why Obama and Panetta are going very very kid-glove-ish with the CIA, I think part of the reason, or the explanation is they’re afraid of these guys because these guys have a whole lot to lose if justice takes its course.”

“So, it’s pretty scary. Yes, it is,” he concluded.

Via medical malpractice attorney Thomas Soldan.

Okay, this is better

Happy to know Texas isn’t quite that crazy!

At trial, defense attorneys made the shocking argument that Gilbert was justified in shooting Frago because she had stolen from him and Texas law permits the use of deadly force to defend one’s property at night. That a defense was raised in this case based on Texas’ awful defense of property law is certainly newsworthy and even more reason to reform that law. But there is no evidence that the jury acquitted based on the defense of property law in the first place.

The much more plausible reason for the verdict is that the jury believed the defendant’s claim that he didn’t intend to shoot the victim. Per Texas’ homicide statute, the prosecution needed to prove that Gilbert “intentionally or knowingly” killed Frago or intended to cause her “serious bodily injury.” The defense argued that Gilbert lacked the requisite intent for murder because when he shot at the car as Frago and the owner of the escort service drove away, he was aiming for the tire. The bullet hit the tire and a fragment, “literally the size of your fingernail,” according to Defense Attorney Bobby Barrera, hit Frago. Barrera does not believe the jury acquitted because of the defense of property law. He believes they acquitted because they believed Gilbert didn’t mean to shoot her.

Unless someone has interviewed a juror or can read minds, they cannot claim the jury agreed the killing was justified. And the juries do not “cite” laws. They find facts and decide “guilty” or “not guilty.” And it isn’t accurate to call Frago a “prostitute.” Witnesses for the prosecution testified she was an escort who never agreed to have sex. Rather than siding with the killer’s characterization, writers should at least say “alleged.”

One would expect the jury to find that shooting at a car with an AK-47 is at least “reckless,” in which case he could have been convicted of manslaughter. But the prosecution didn’t charge him with manslaughter, only murder. Manslaughter is a “lesser included offense” of murder and the judge is entitled to instruct the jury if the evidence supports that charge, but it appears she did not. The jury can’t convict on a charge that isn’t before them.

In the valley of the blind

The one-eyed man is king! Nice to know someone’s trying to stand up for us:

Of course, what’s now also come out is that, despite Google and Microsoft releasing transparencyreports about government requests for data, they don’t include FISA requests because of the gag orders on them. It’s only recently that both Google and Microsoft were able to include “range” numbers for how many national security letter requests they get. One hopes they’re pushing to be transparent on FISA requests as well.

The article makes it clear that Twitter was alone among the companies in refusing to join this program. That does not mean that Twitter does not hand over data to the government when receiving a legitimate FISA order. I’m sure it does. But it does mean that they have not set up a special system to make it easy for the government to just log in and get the data requested. Some people have suggested that the government has little need for Twitter to join the program since nearly all Twitter information is public, but that’s not true. There is still plenty of important information that might be hidden, including IP addresses, email addresses, location information and direct messages that the NSA would likely want. Besides, YouTube is a part of the program, and most of its data is similarly “public.”

This is not, by the way, the first time that we’ve seen Twitter stand up and fight for a user’s rights against a government request for data. Over two years ago, we pointed out that Twitter, alone among tech companies, fought back when a court ordered it to hand over user info. Twitter sought, and eventually got, permission to tell the user, and allow that user to try to fight back. It later came out that, as part of that same investigation, the government also had requested information from Google and Sonic.net, with Sonic.net fighting back and losing. It never became clear whether Google fought back.
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Kabul attack

They’ve been minimizing this on the cable news channel, but I was following this on Twitter all day yesterday and I think it’s a much bigger deal than anyone’s admitting. This is supposed to be one of the most secure areas for Americans, but Taliban suicide bombers reportedly got into the compound wearing Afghan border guard uniforms. Well, who knows? It’s not as if anyone’s going to tell us:

Taliban insurgents stormed the Kabul international airport that houses a NATO headquarters, setting off multiple explosions. Afghan forces reported the seven heavily-armed insurgents had been killed following a fierce gun battle.

Afghan officials announced that the insurgents had been neutralized a few hours after the siege began at around 4:30am local time (24:30 GMT) on Monday.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in an explosives-laden van, and five others took up positions in a building under construction next to the international airport, Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said. The remaining insurgents then engaged in a fierce gun battle for several hours before being killed by security forces.

The area was quickly sealed off by security forces, and helicopters patrolled the area. Local residents said they heard at least a dozen explosions coming from the military section of the airport. They described hearing rocket-propelled grenade blasts along with automatic weapons fire, AP reported.

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