Israel’s NSA scandal

So that’s how it happened. The Israelis have been blackmailing gay Palestinians to force them to be informants (always the hallmark of a democratic nation, I say!):

WASHINGTON — IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
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Kumquats

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Because if we acknowledged that Israel has illegal nukes, we’s look pretty silly going after other Middle Eastern nations for the same thing, amirite?

Israel has a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Former CIA director Robert Gates said so during his 2006 Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of defense, when he noted — while serving as a university president — that Iran is surrounded by “powers with nuclear weapons,” including “the Israelis to the west.” Former President Jimmy Carter said so in 2008 and again this year, in interviews and speeches in which he pegged the number of Israel’s nuclear warheads at 150 to around 300.

But due to a quirk of federal secrecy rules, such remarks generally cannot be made even now by those who work for the U.S. government and hold active security clearances. In fact, U.S. officials, even those on Capitol Hill, are routinely admonished not to mention the existence of an Israeli nuclear arsenal and occasionally punished when they do so.

The policy of never publicly confirming what a scholar once called one of the world’s “worst-kept secrets” dates from a political deal between the United States and Israel in the late 1960s. Its consequence has been to help Israel maintain a distinctive military posture in the Middle East while avoiding the scrutiny — and occasional disapprobation — directed at the world’s eight acknowledged nuclear powers.

But the U.S. policy of shielding the Israeli program has recently provoked new controversy, partly because of allegations that it played a role in the censure of a well-known national laboratory arms researcher in July, after he published an article in which he acknowledged that Israel has nuclear arms. Some scholars and experts are also complaining that the government’s lack of candor is complicating its high-profile campaign to block the development of nuclear arms in Iran, as well as U.S.-led planning for a potential treaty prohibiting nuclear arms anywhere in the region.
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Hits the nail on the head

Sen Bernie Sanders in Iowa talking Presidential run

Charlie Pierce on the media bobbleheads’ attack on Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders won’t be president? No kidding, Bob. What was your first freaking clue? But, as I said, here’s the thing. Chris Christie won’t be president, either. Rand Paul won’t be president, either. Nobody’s out there in 2014 reminding their supporters that they’ll have to come to their senses some day. There is nobody telling Martin O’Malley’s supporters that they all should lay in some “READY FOR HILLARY” buttons against that inevitable day when the campaign craters. It is not a disqualifying flaw in a candidate two years before the election that the candidate is unlikely to win — or, even, that the candidate is very unlikely to win — because, if it were, nobody would be qualified to run. This is all understood, if rarely spoken, by the people who judge such things. But, so far, it’s a standard that has been openly applied only to Bernie Sanders. (Jesus, there are reporters out there who still are seriously talking about bringing back Willard Romney.) Why is it that Bernie Sanders is only in this to “push the dialogue to the left,” while Ted Cruz, who is a fking nut six ways to Sunday, is running because he has a “substantial constituency within the party”?

What is going on, I believe, is not an effort to marginalize Sanders but, rather, to marginalize what he’s talking about, because making a presidential election purely about class is something we don’t do any more. It really isn’t funny that Sanders talks incessantly about “the middle class,” because people who perceive themselves as middle class are finding themselves broken and sinking into poverty. Income inequality, and its pernicious effects on our people and our politics and our entire culture, is worth discussing, in detail, in a national election, and if Bernie Sanders wants to be monomaniacal on the subject, so what? Rudy Giuliani got months of great press as a potential president out of what Joe Biden famously called, “A noun, a verb, and 9/11.” Nobody accused Giuliani of running merely to push the conversation to the right, or into drag, or whatever. I’m old enough to remember 1979, when the smart money thought Ronald Reagan a superannuated joke. Right now, the 2016 election is nothing more than a vague national conversation about what’s important. If it’s all the same to everybody, for the moment, I’ll treat Bernie Sanders as a potential president the same way I’d treat Hillary Clinton or any of the others, thanks. It’s fking September of 2014. Nothing else makes sense.

Blinded them with science

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Your tax dollars at work! Isn’t this nice:

The subject gets little publicity nowadays, but until the mid-1990s, the US Air Force openly funded research on how to destroy human eyeballs at a distance with lasers. At the time, the justification was that such a technology—causing permanent blindness—was no worse than burning people with napalm, irradiating them, or blasting them to bits with bombs.

The research got quite far along; in 1995, Human Rights Watch identified at least 10 different laser blinding programs of concern, which the military ran under the names “laser countermeasure system,” BOSS, Persuader, LX-5, Saber 203, TLOS, Green Laser, Nighthawk, and Y-Blue, among others. In that same year a treaty, the New Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, was adopted by the United Nations; it banned such weaponry, and Bulletin contributing editorWilliam Arkin penned a full-page story applauding the ban. He wrote: “The humanitarian considerations of this potentially horrific new chapter in warfare far outweighed the minor—and redundant—military benefit.”

But while the weapon itself was banned, research into laser weaponry was not, so work on it continued, under other rubrics. While I was an editor at a laser magazine in the early 2000s, my colleagues and I attended a year-round litany of multi-day conferences on the latest developments in lasers—and usually found Air Force researchers there, including those in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Modesto, California. (Though located in California, their particular research was funded by the University of Illinois and the US Air Force.) In interviews in the year 2000, they said that technically speaking, they were researching with the aim of protecting America’s soldiers in the field from getting blinded by lasers, and doing so required them to study the precise laser settings that would cause the most damage to the human cornea. (For the record, researchers typically test their laser beams on artificial, eyeball-like tissue grown in petri dishes, which often consist of five layers of epithelial cells, each layer 0.450 nanometers thick.)

Researchers may have been careful to say that they were trying to protect US soldiers, but their logic could be interpreted as a fig leaf to get around the ban, which went into force in 1998. In interviews in 2000, Air Force-funded researchers admitted that it would be easy to turn their work to protect American soldiers around and use it to blind the enemy. It seems that at least part of the military rationale behind the technology is that a dead soldier is just dead, but a blinded one needs the help of others, thus tying up several enemy soldiers at once—similar to the thinking behind the use of landmines to blow off legs and arms.

Military-funded research in this area continues to be conducted by the Optical Radiation Bioeffects and Safety program—which sometimes contracts out the work to outside engineering firms. Research and development is also being conducted by firms such as B.E. Meyers Electro-Optics, makers of a laser device called the Glare Mout Plus, while the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate of the Defense Department leads the Pentagon’s end.

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