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« Reply #7110 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:18 AM »


Qatar prepares for leadership handover

Emir and prime minister of the influential Gulf state about to step down, al-Jazeera says

Reuters
guardian.co.uk, Monday 24 June 2013 02.14 BST   

Qatar seems to be preparing its population of nearly 2 million for new leadership, with the emir and prime minister apparently ready to step down.

The tiny country, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is a global investment powerhouse, a growing force in international media and sport, and a financial backer of Arab Spring revolts.

The Qatari-owed al-Jazeera television channel said the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 61, would meet ruling family members and decision makers on Monday "amid reports that he intends to hand over power to his crown prince, Sheikh Tamim".

The satellite channel said it had learned of the news from "reliable Qatari sources", but provided no further details.

Diplomats said this month the emir was considering an orderly transfer of power that would probably begin with the departure of the powerful prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, 53.

Arab and Western diplomats said they understood the motive was the emir's desire to have a smooth transition to a younger generation. Such a transition would be unusual for Gulf Arab states where leaders usually die in office.

They said they expected the reshuffle to take one of two courses – either Sheikh Tamim would replace Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim as the prime minister until he takes over as emir when his father eventually steps down, or the deputy prime minister, Ahmed al-Mahmoud, would become the next prime minister when Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim steps aside.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim has been prime minister since 2007 and has played a key role in positioning Qatar as a powerbroker in the region. He is also chairman of the board of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a position he is expected to retain. QIA has estimated assets of between $100bn and $200bn.

The emir has elevated the country's international profile in recent years through the launch and development of the al-Jazeera television network, as well as its successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

The Gulf state has played a substantial role in promoting the Arab Spring, lending significant support to rebels who ousted former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and to the uprising seeking to topple the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

It has also hosted a delegation of the Afghan Taliban, which opened an office in Doha last week in preparation for an expected revival of talks with the United States.

Other political crises and wars Qatar has tackled include Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Darfur and the Palestinian territories, often hosting peace talks on its own soil to try to prove it can punch above its weight in international diplomacy.

Sheikh Tamim is only 33. But Eman Ebed Alkadi of Eurasia Group consultants wrote that she did not expect Qatari domestic priorities or foreign policy to change significantly with a change of ruler.

"Tamim has controlled key policies in Qatar for some time, and shares his father's views on political development in Qatar and economic diversification", Alkadi wrote.


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« Reply #7111 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:20 AM »


Egypt's army to step in if anti-Morsi rallies become violent

Army says it will intervene because demonstrations against President Morsi are 'an attack on the will of the people'

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 23 June 2013 17.29 BST   

Egypt's army has cautioned that it will intervene next weekend if mass rallies against the president descend into violence, in one of its strongest warnings since it handed over to civilian government a year ago. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister, said he would not allow "attack on the will of the people" and called for political reconciliation in the week before mass rallies against President Mohamed Morsi next Sunday.

"There is a state of division in society and the continuation of it is a danger to the Egyptian state and there must be consensus among all," Sisi said.

Morsi's opponents plan to organise massive protests on 30 June, the first anniversary of his election – a day that is the subject of frenzied speculation on both the Egyptian streets and in its media. Many claim they will not leave the streets until the fall of Morsi's regime, arguing that for all his talk of democratic legitimacy, he has little respect for wider democratic values. The army has said it will deploy troops on the streets on that day, while the president says he may introduce a state of emergency if, as expected, the protests spark widespread civil unrest.

More than 15 million Egyptians have signed a petition calling for the president's downfall, furious at Morsi's unilateralism and impatient at plummeting living standards. On Saturday, Mohamed ElBaradei – a leader of Egypt's secular opposition – asked Morsi to step down, at a press conference provocatively entitled "After the departure". Wael Ghonim, one of the most prominent activists from the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, has also called for Morsi to act as a "patriotic Egyptian" and resign.

There has also been widespread anger at the appointment as governor of Luxor of a figure with links to an Islamist terror group. But on Sunday, Adel al-Khayat, who was a member of Gamaa Islamiya, a group whose associates murdered at least 58 tourists in 1997 at a pharaonic temple in Luxor, resigned from the job just days after he was installed.

While al-Khayat's resignation may temper local anger, it will not quell wider fury at President Mohamed Morsi's administration. For Egypt's leftist and liberals, al-Khayat's appointment was just one of many instances in which Morsi – an Islamist – has prioritised his allies at the expense of national unity.

But Morsi can still rely on strong (if falling) support among Islamist sections of society. On Friday, more than 100,000 Egyptians gathered in support of his presidency outside a mosque in east Cairo. Many questioned why Egypt's first democratically elected president should be forced from office three years before the scheduled end of his term.

"Democracy all over the world works in the same way," said Sabry Roushdy, a teacher who had travelled from a northern city, Kafr-el-Sheikh, and a member of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party. "You come by the ballot box, and you go by the ballot box. It's not right that a section of society should bring him down just because they don't think he is good for the country."

Morsi himself says he has no plans to step down. "When George W Bush had 22% in the ratings, Americans didn't talk about early presidential elections – that's not the way that democracies are run," a presidential source said this week. "It's not about this president and it's not about this regime. If this is established as a precedent, given the degree of polarisation in Egyptian society today, we will not have a stable government for tens of years."


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« Reply #7112 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:23 AM »

Abbas Accepts Prime Minister’s Resignation

By ISABEL KERSHNER
IHT
June 23, 2013

JERUSALEM — President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Sunday accepted the resignation of his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, who had asked to quit two weeks after being sworn into office.

The latest power struggles in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, deepened the image of political disarray, days before Secretary of State John Kerry was expected back in the region to try to revive peace talks with Israel.

But in what appeared to be an effort to project a minimal level of stability, a spokesman for Mr. Abbas told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa that Mr. Abbas asked Mr. Hamdallah to stay on in a caretaker role until a replacement could be found.

Mr. Hamdallah had replaced Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected economist who served as prime minister for six years. Mr. Fayyad quit in April, partly because of a dispute over his powers, but he stayed on as a caretaker until Mr. Hamdallah’s appointment. Palestinian officials said that Mr. Hamdallah had resigned because of a conflict over his authority and responsibilities, and they suggested that his primary problem was with his two deputy prime ministers.

A university dean and professor of linguistics, Mr. Hamdallah took office with no experience in politics or government, but he was known to be close to Fatah, Mr. Abbas’s mainstream party. When Mr. Hamdallah was tapped for the post of prime minister, some Palestinian analysts said they expected him to be compliant and not clash with Mr. Abbas, an assumption that made Mr. Hamdallah’s swift resignation all the more surprising.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, an independent research institute in East Jerusalem, said the Palestinian Authority was at “a real impasse,” stuck between the Israeli occupation and halfhearted efforts to reconcile with Hamas, the rival Islamic group that controls the coastal Palestinian territory of Gaza.

“It is not a question of who the prime minister is,” Mr. Abdul Hadi said, “but of where the Palestinian Authority is heading.”

The Palestinian public, which reacted largely with apathy to the political disarray, found some unifying cheer this weekend after a singer from Gaza, Muhammad Assaf, 23, won the title of “Arab Idol” in a popular, pan-Arab singing contest fashioned on the British and American versions.

Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were glued to television screens as the finals were broadcast live from Beirut, Lebanon, on Saturday night. After Mr. Assaf’s victory, thousands of people poured into the streets to celebrate.
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« Reply #7113 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:26 AM »

India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy
June 24, 2013

India-U.S. Relations: The Search for a Transformative Moment

By SALMAN KHURSHID

India and the world have changed dramatically in the past two decades. The relationship between India and the United States has strengthened spectacularly and brought substantive gain to both countries. It has also given birth to great expectations. The management and fulfilment of those expectations is crucial for the dialogue and partnership between the two countries.

The India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue 2013 comes at a critical moment. India is increasingly focused on the forthcoming national elections. President Barack Obama, in his second term, is looking at the legacy he would bequeath to his country and the world.

The relationship between India and the United States has been driven by both the bilateral governmental interface and the natural affinity and attraction between their citizens. The liberal philosophical moorings of some of the first leaders of independent India, shared values of democracy and freedom, and admiration for the American Constitution, brought us together. A growing number of Indian students and professionals sought educational and work opportunities in the United States alongside India’s engagement with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Soviet Union.

The intrinsic bond between two liberal democracies was captured in the iconic photograph of President John F. Kennedy and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by the Potomac in Washington. And the subsequent distances in our relationship were evoked well by a photo characterized by the stiff body language of President Richard M. Nixon and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi years later.

From “estranged democracies” to “engaged democracies,” it has been a long and fascinating journey for India and the United States. India is exploring and absorbing in myriad ways its transition from being a country subjected to select American sanctions to becoming a strategic partner of the United States.

In the Indian discovery of America and the American discovery of India, increased expectations, timely delivery on commitments, agreed-upon mutual course corrections and consolidation of gains would be crucial.

India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue provides opportunities to measure the distance traveled and to map the future. The elements of contemporary international relations are complex. Strands of real or perceived ideology and self-interest intertwine to shape and shade the global fabric. The United States has fought valiantly in Afghanistan and India will willingly make its contribution to the peace and rehabilitation effort in its own characteristic and calibrated manner. Peace is indivisible and must come as a whole, not in pieces, both in our neighborhood and beyond. There is much scope for joint reflection on these matters.

Attempts to create a better world are as challenging as resolving conflicts. Sustainable development and climate change, an equitable and efficient world trade system, food and energy security, cyber security and counter-terrorism strategies are all matters on which there are differing and divided opinions across the globe. The G8 and G20 nations have yet to bridge the gaps in perception and strategies of the developing and the developed countries even as the emerging economies attempt to straddle the two sides.

It makes it imperative for the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue to succeed in the interest of our two countries and the world. In the lives of nations, as in the lives of people, the right moment can achieve what years of effort strove for. India and the United States found that transformative moment in the signing of the Civil Nuclear Agreement. We need to build upon that success and work towards the next defining moment.

Every nation seeks partners and friends. India and the United States are no exception, but we are currently tasked to nurture the strategic partnership that we already have in place and to which we are mutually committed to preserve and protect. The pressures and difficulties posed by our domestic politics and economics, the unresolved issues of the world, must not deter us.

The challenge before us is to reconcile competing self-interests and combine them into enlightened mutual interest. That is not a simple matter of persuasive arguments and attractive power point presentations. We both have constraints of democracy, which are exacerbated by the different levels of development and corresponding demands of our respective economies, societies and people.

For instance, India at the moment is relatively low on carbon emissions. But those will increase as we address the developmental needs of our people, unless adequately provided to adapt to low-emission technology that is obviously costly.

Developing countries like India expect that the United States and other developed countries will agree to binding targets to cut emissions, having had the advantage of several centuries of development. This competing logic applies to many sectors. The solutions lie in our mutual convergence at a middle ground. The very purpose of dialogue is to find common ground and to creatively conceive a point of agreement where there is none. It is important that ours is a dialogue that flows from our partnership and not one to create a relationship.

India is not impervious to the pressures the United States faces as it walks the fiscal cliff, tries to revive its economy, addresses persisting unemployment, and the inevitable demands from its businessmen and people that the US government pursue policies for preferential domestic production and services to protect jobs.

Many of our own aspirations are linked with increased demand for goods and services in the United States. India expects her friends in the West to understand how tough a current account deficit can be on a developing economy, how important it is that information technology and pharmaceuticals—the sectors of our economy that have provided the cutting edge to India’s growth and boosted our middle class — be supported and encouraged. In India today, social activists and the courts are vigorously scrutinizing public servants, which impacts response time. There is a steep learning curve as we take the reform road. Our fiercely autonomous Parliament and judiciary, reflecting the separation of powers, have to be taken on board to ensure a satisfactory response to our collective aspirations. This will be speeded up with important conceptual strides that we hope to take soon.

Secretary of State John Kerry will be received in India as a familiar name and face, having been a key figure in U.S. foreign policy as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a period of great significance to India. It will be an opportunity for him to reconnect with several old friends and discover new ones. It will indeed be an honor for me to sit across the table from him at Hyderabad House and draw plans for taking our relationship forward, both between the two of us as indeed for our countries.

As we look from Raisina Hill to Capitol Hill, we can see President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrapping up a decade of eventful cooperation later this year. That provides us with an impetus to further the spirit of working together that was underscored by the historic Indian-U.S. Civil Nuclear Agreement and the contemporaneous paradigm shift in perceptions.

The road ahead is the very road that was signposted by milestones such as the meeting of my predecessor, Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. The signposts of strategic partnership will hopefully have sectors such as clean energy, innovation in science and technology, peaceful use of nuclear energy, space, education and skills development, securing global supply chains, interdict illicit finance flows and counterfeit currency, intelligence sharing, enhanced cyber security, and the expansion of trade and investment.

Finally in the realm of defense, we hope our relationship is not merely a buyer-seller relationship, but a true strategic partnership involving joint research, manufacture of equipment, training of personnel and military exercises.

The building blocks of such a partnership are in place, but they need to be cemented by sustained and enhanced political will. We are able to talk and listen even where convergent and common positions take time to formulate.

Long journeys require pauses. We might pause and rest, but we aren’t reluctant travelers. Traffic rules in our respective countries might mandate us to drive on different sides of the road, the spirit of the July 2005 joint statement and November 2010 joint statement of Prime Minister Singh and President Obama has brought us on a shared path and agreed destination. We need to watch the speed, not lose time, and yet not be reckless.

Secretary Kerry and I won’t only judge how the engines are running, but also reaffirm how the spirit of adventure remains undiminished. As we drive past the fields of opportunity, I paraphrase the lines of the great American poet Robert Frost that Prime Minister Nehru loved to quote: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep; And miles to go before I sleep; And miles to go before I sleep.” The dialogue between India and the United States will be an objective look at the miles ahead but also a reaffirmation of our strategic partnership.

Salman Khurshid is India’s Minister for External Affairs.
   


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« Reply #7114 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:27 AM »

Pakistani Premier: Musharraf Should Be Tried

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 24, 2013

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's premier said Monday that the military ruler who ousted him in a coup over a decade ago should be tried for treason, but the government stopped short of pressing official charges.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke in parliament as the Supreme Court held a hearing on a possible treason case against Pervez Musharraf. The former military ruler can only be tried for treason if the federal government presses charges against him.

Sharif said the government agrees with the Supreme Court's decision that Musharraf committed treason under Article 6 of the constitution when he declared a state of emergency in 2007 and suspended the constitution. Trying Musharraf for treason could set up a clash with the country's powerful army.

"The prime minister is under oath to protect, preserve and defend the constitution and it is implicit in his oath that his government ensures that persons guilty of acts under Article 6 are brought to justice," Sharif said in parliament.

The premier was reading from a statement that was submitted to the Supreme Court by Attorney General Munir Malik on Monday. The statement did not mention Musharraf's ouster of Sharif in a coup in 1999 when he was serving as army chief, perhaps because the move was retroactively approved by the Supreme Court and parliament at the time.

"Musharraf has to answer for all his deeds in court," Sharif said in a separate part of the speech.

But the government stopped short of actually pressing charges against Musharraf and said it will consult with other political parties on the matter, leaving open the possibility that it could still choose to abandon the case at some point in the future. Musharraf would be the first military ruler tried for treason in a country that has experienced three military coups in its nearly 66-year history.

"The federal government will proceed in accordance with the law and also take political forces into confidence through a consultative process so that the collective will and wisdom of the people of Pakistan is duly reflected in further process in this behalf."

Musharraf, who is currently under house arrest in connection with a separate case, could face the death penalty or life in prison if he is convicted of treason. But some analysts doubt the army, which is considered the country's most powerful institution, would allow that to happen and could intervene to prevent it. Musharraf has maintained his innocence.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after years in self-imposed exile, with the hope of running in the national election that was held in May. But he was disqualified from participating in the vote because of his actions while in power and has spent most of his time battling legal cases. The government has barred him from leaving the country while the cases are in progress.

The caretaker government that ruled the country in the run-up to the election declined to press treason charges against Musharraf, telling the Supreme Court that the issue was outside its mandate.

Supreme Court judges quizzed the attorney general on Monday about the government's specific plans to bring charges against Musharraf. Malik requested 30 days to prepare a plan. The judges ordered him to appear before the court again on Thursday to provide an update.

Also Monday, gunmen on motorcycles killed a mid-ranking police officer and his driver in the northwest city of Peshawar, said police official Mohammed Ibrahim Khan. Amanullah Khan, a deputy superintendent, was in charge of the traffic police in Peshawar.

No one has claimed responsibility, but suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban.
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« Reply #7115 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:29 AM »

U.S. envoy heads to Afghanistan to restart peace efforts

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, June 24, 2013 7:10 EDT

US envoy James Dobbins was set for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul later Monday, officials said, as Washington works to put peace efforts back on track after a dispute over the rebels’ new office in Qatar.

Karzai reacted furiously to the office being styled as a Taliban government-in-exile under the white flag and using the formal name of the “Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan” from their hardline 1996-2001 regime.

The opening of the Qatar office last Tuesday was intended as a first step towards a peace deal as the US-led NATO combat mission winds down 12 years after the Taliban were ousted after the 9/11 attacks.

Dobbins, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was due in Kabul a day after the Afghan government said a written agreement with the US about how the Qatar office should operate had been broken.

Kabul, which said it was still committed to the peace process, insisted the office was only used for direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

On Monday, it confirmed that the contentious sign, flag and flagpole had been removed from the building in the Qatari capital Doha.

“He (Dobbins) is going to come and meet the president today,” a palace official in Kabul told AFP.

Western officials in Kabul confirmed that Dobbins, who was in Qatar with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, was due in Afghanistan, but declined to give any schedule.

The veteran diplomat, who re-opened the US embassy after the 2001 fall of the Taliban, is also likely to try to revive separate talks on an agreement that would allow Washington to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after next year.

Karzai, who has refused to send representatives to Qatar, broke off negotiations on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) in reaction to the Taliban office.

While in Qatar, Kerry attempted to placate Afghanistan by warning that Washington could call on the Taliban to close the office if they failed to live up to their side of peace efforts.

About 100,000 foreign combat troops, 68,000 of them from the US, are due to withdraw by the end of 2014, and NATO formally transferred responsibility for nationwide security to Afghan forces last week.

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« Reply #7116 on: Jun 24, 2013, 05:44 AM »

In the USA...

States Reined In by 1965 Voting Act Await a Decision

By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON
NYT
June 23, 2013

BEAUMONT, Tex. — There is little agreement on anything, even when it all started, but sometime in the last decade the Beaumont Independent School District became a battle zone.

Tempers have flared at school board meetings and lawsuits have been filed, as a mostly white group of critics have charged the black-majority school board with enabling corruption, wasteful spending and academic cheating. The school board’s majority denies the charges and says the whites simply cannot tolerate black control.

Determined to change the board but aware that the incumbents could not be beaten in the current districts, the critics pursued alternatives. Last December, they pushed for a new election method that was approved, along narrow racial lines, in a citywide referendum. The Justice Department, citing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, objected to the new method and it was dropped.

Then, in April, the critics took advantage of a little-noticed state statute that rendered three of the board’s black incumbents unexpectedly disqualified from the next election, a procedural maneuver affirmed by a Texas appeals court. This, too, was blocked by the Justice Department.

But throughout the spring, Michael D. Getz, a city councilman and a leader of the crusade to remake the board, kept a close eye on the United States Supreme Court. “I thought, ‘Well, this might not be the last word on this,’ ” he said.

The last word, for now, will come this week, when the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Section 5. Passed in 1965 at the height of the civil rights movement and renewed and amended several times since, the section requires states, counties, cities, school boards, water districts and other jurisdictions where there has been a history of racial discrimination to submit any proposed voting changes to the Justice Department for approval, or “preclearance.”

Shelby County, Ala., is arguing that these covered jurisdictions — nine mostly Southern states and parts of several others — are no longer any different from the rest of the country, and that the chore of compliance has become an unfair and costly burden.

“The preclearance mechanism is making it substantially more difficult for Alabama’s current leaders to achieve important, much-needed reforms,” the Alabama attorney general wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief. He went on to describe the prolonged and complicated procedures involved in getting federal approval for a “facially nondiscriminatory” plan to modernize the state’s election code.

Proponents of Section 5 say the degree of progress in these areas is exaggerated, and many civil rights advocates are fearful of a broad rollback of minority voting power.

Last week, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which supports keeping Section 5, reported on the kinds of changes that might be put into practice if the section were to be struck down.

Michael D. Getz, a city councilman and a leader of the crusade to remake the board. Michael Stravato for The New York Times

The report lists electoral changes that were recently blocked, like Texas’ statewide redistricting plan and its voter identification law, and others that were withdrawn out of fear of an objection. Still others, including a voter identification law in Alabama, have been passed into law but not yet submitted for review. The ID law was passed in 2011, raising suspicions among civil rights groups that the state is simply waiting out the Supreme Court.

If Section 5 were to fall, hotly debated laws like those would still face legal challenges, said Richard H. Pildes, a law professor at New York University. Challenging a law would be more difficult and expensive without Section 5, Professor Pildes acknowledged, but he pointed out that voting restrictions were recently blocked in Ohio and Pennsylvania, states that are not covered by the section.

Michael Neil is one of the three white members of the seven-member board. Michael Stravato for The New York Times

“I believe state election laws will continue to be robustly scrutinized and challenged,” he wrote in an e-mail. However, he added, “The biggest question will be changes to election laws at the level of local governments.”

It is at the level of counties, towns and school boards, where news media attention is often scant and legal resources fewer, that Section 5 is most active. From 1982 to 2006, according to a recent article in The Yale Law Journal, more than 85 percent of voting change submissions came from jurisdictions below the state level.

Section 5 submissions from low-level jurisdictions have become routine, local officials and lawyers say, and for the most part federal approval has become routine as well. Since 2000, more than 200,000 voting changes have been submitted to the Justice Department and fewer than 80 objections have been lodged.

But it is a matter of debate as to whether that indicates a lasting change in political behavior or simply the effectiveness of Section 5’s constraints.

There does not need to be intentional discrimination for some voting change to end up weakening hard-won minority voting power, said Prof. Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School.

“On things like polling place changes, a lot of times they just don’t think about it and the concern about minority enfranchisement isn’t even on the radar,” she said. Section 5 forces city councils and school districts to consider such outcomes, since those affected may not have the resources to bring attention to such disenfranchisement.

Local officials say that they are committed to fair representation but that Section 5 forces them to create unreasonable election plans.

“We can put forth a plan that has a lot of common sense to it, if we don’t have to have Justice Department clearance,” said Ken Clark, a commissioner for Galveston County, Tex., who helped draw up several redistricting maps that were blocked when the Justice Department said they were adopted with a “discriminatory purpose.”

Mr. Clark said the county would probably not revive those blocked maps if Section 5 were struck down. In that case, “it just opens up our options,” he said, adding that even those earlier plans were created with federal approval in mind.

The same arguments being made in Washington are being made in Beaumont. Now a black-majority city, Beaumont has a history of federal intervention, having been forced in the 1980s to consolidate its two school districts: one mostly white and affluent and the other mostly black and economically struggling.

The critics of the current board, pointing as proof of their concerns to an investigation into the district by the Texas Education Agency, say that racial tensions are being sustained by Section 5, a relic of bygone times.

“There is a part of this community that never forgets, no matter how much progress is made,” said Michael Neil, one of three white members of the seven-member board. “What we hear about is how things used to be.”

Supporters of the current board say the schools have genuinely been improving, and Janice Brassard, a white school board member who tends to vote with the black majority, said that the anger of some of the critics goes back long before the recent allegations of mismanagement. “I really feel they think that blacks and whites don’t need to be playing in the same sandbox,” Ms. Brassard said.

In any case, the school board and its critics will soon find out the rules under which they can continue the fight. Mr. Neil and Mr. Getz expect a favorable court decision, and a renewed chance to remake the school board.

Asked what she would do if the court struck down Section 5, a black school board member, Zenobia
Bush, simply said, “Pray.”

**************

This Time, Greater Will to Overhaul Immigration

By JONATHAN WEISMAN
NYT
June 23, 2013

WASHINGTON — Six years ago this month, re-election campaign looming, Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana joined 15 other Democrats to shoot down an overhaul of the immigration system, which she said encouraged “illegal behavior” with “a generous path to citizenship” for “people who have broken the law to enter this country.”

Ms. Landrieu’s next campaign is already upon her. Republicans have made her a prime target in their quest to retake the Senate in 2014. But on immigration, her tone has changed markedly, as has what she called her own internal political compass.

“Sometimes it just takes awhile for issues to marinate,” Ms. Landrieu said, indicating she is a likely “yes” on a Senate bill offering a route to citizenship for 11 million people in the country illegally. “You can kind of feel like the public is ready to do this, and wants to do it.”

As the Senate prepares a pivotal vote on Monday to end debate on a border-security amendment that is expected to bring some reluctant Republicans on board, Ms. Landrieu’s about-face reflects a new political reality in which conservative Democrats like her are uniting with moderate Republicans to help carry the legislation across the finish line. If the amendment goes forward on Monday with more than the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, the bill is almost certain to pass, probably by Thursday or Friday.

In 2007, a bipartisan, left-right coalition brought down an immigration bill that had the backing of the Senate’s most senior leaders, as well as the White House. The qualms from the right over “amnesty” for workers here illegally were nearly matched in intensity by fears on the left that new guest-worker programs and millions of newly legal workers would expand unemployment and depress wages.

But advocates of the newest version of a comprehensive immigration overhaul say the large Democratic defections that helped sink the last bill will be minimized this time — in part because of changes to the legislation and in part because the bill’s time has finally come as far as Democrats are concerned.

Officially, at least half a dozen Democrats — along with the liberal independent Senator Bernard Sanders — remain undecided, a number that could doom the chances that the immigration bill can get the 60 votes it will need to reach a final vote.

Conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana; and Mark Pryor of Arkansas have pressed for stronger border security measures to be added to the base bill written by a bipartisan group of eight senators this year, a demand met on Friday in an agreement reached by Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, both Republicans. Their amendment would double the border control force at a cost of roughly $30 billion.

Liberals like Mr. Sanders and Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, remain concerned about new visa programs and their effect on American workers and wages. The jobless rate, 7.6 percent, is three percentage points higher than six years ago, and income inequality has widened.

“Bottom line is, unemployment is high, wages are low, and it is absurd to bring hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers into this country,” Mr. Sanders said.

But pressed on their final votes, most Democrats concede that barring an abrupt shift in the political climate, they will almost certainly fall in line behind their leaders. Negotiators laid the groundwork early by uniting organized labor behind an overhaul that badly divided unions six years ago. Efforts by Republican supporters of the bill to squelch a nativist backlash has redounded to the favor of Democrats in Republican states.

“Clearly the Republican Party, after demagoguing against immigrants, has determined that’s not in their political interest anymore,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, who six years ago opposed a bill she called “amnesty” and “Social Security for illegal immigrants.”

And times simply have changed. “In blue-collar areas, there’s less aversion to a pathway to citizenship,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, an author of the measure. “And I think over all, Democrats want to vote for a bill. They really do, even if it might be a little tough in their states.”

Some Democrats cautioned there is still time for the bill to fall apart. In 2007, the bipartisan core of negotiators lost control of the bill on the Senate floor, and the bill collapsed under the weight of contradictory amendments that left even advocates baffled.

Byron L. Dorgan, a Democratic former senator from North Dakota, recalled winning passage of an amendment that would have ended a guest-worker program after five years, a move that infuriated many Republican supporters of the bill. But other amendments left him unsure whether his “sunset” provision had actually survived, he said, and he ultimately voted to sustain a final filibuster of the bill.

That could happen again, Democrats warn. “One of the reasons I voted against the 2007 immigration bill was because it turned into an unworkable mess during the amendment process,” said Mr. Harkin, who worried that the new border security measures to attract Republicans could repel Democrats. “It feels that we may be suffering a case of déjà vu, where the Senate introduces a bipartisan bill, and then Republicans walk away from a deal they’ve struck, or they force the bill in an unworkable direction.”

The balance could also tilt the other way, costing votes on the right side of the spectrum. Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, said she wants an amendment allowing more low-skilled women to immigrate to the United States, a measure that gained support from 12 other female senators last week.

As it stands now, the bill shifts legal immigration policy from an emphasis on family unification to one favoring visa applicants with useful skills. Ms. Hirono says that punishes women who may lack the opportunity to develop such skills in their native countries.

Mr. Sanders wants changes to a visa program that now allows young foreign workers temporarily — ostensibly in “cultural exchanges” — to work as waiters, landscapers and camp counselors. That is work he says young Americans should be doing.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and another “no” vote in 2007, is guarding against any move to deny access to health care to pregnant women and children who enter the country legally. Senator Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, is adamant about a guest-worker provision for his state’s fish-processing industry.

But for now, it is not clear those Democrats will desert the bill if their demands are not met. Democratic leadership aides are betting not. One senior aide predicted in the end, Senate leaders might not lose a single Democrat.

And he could be right.

As Ms. Hirono put it: “I’m not proposing to blow up this bill.”

**********

Rand Paul Disgraces Himself With The Dumbest Reason Ever to Oppose Immigration Reform

By: Jason Easley
Jun. 23rd, 2013
PoliticusUSA

Sen. Rand Paul is desperate for a reason to justify his opposition to the immigration reform bill, but the one he came up with was completely idiotic.

Transcript via CNN:

CROWLEY: So, you’re a no despite the fact they are pouring $30 billion worth of border patrol — they are doubling the size of the border where we’re told that illegal entry is way down. They’re going to have 24/7 drone coverage of the border. Does that not tell you the border is going to be secure?

PAUL: It may, but we’ve thrown a lot of money at a lot of problems in our country. To me, what really tells me that they’re serious would be letting Congress vote on whether the border’s secure. If the people in the country want to be assured that we will not get another 10 million people to come here illegally over the next decade, they have to believe they get a vote through their Congress. If this is a done deal once the bill’s over and it’s a done deal, we never get to revisit it because it will be very difficult, I don’t think we’ll really get a truly secure border. The other part of a secure border is you have to have a functioning work visa program. This bill puts new caps and allows less workers to come in to pick crops. That’s where the illegal immigration is coming from. This bill will actually make that problem worse.

CROWLEY: Senator, part of the problem, of course, that people say of having Congress be able to say, yes, it’s secure. Go ahead and let’s start legalizing some of the folks that are here, is that Congress is a pretty political place, and if you leave something that you think is a matter of numbers up to Capitol Hill, they will make it about politics. So if you put it in the hands of, say, homeland security —

PAUL: And you think the president — you think the president’s not political? Recently he released 1.3 —

CROWLEY: Well, he’s the president.

PAUL: Well recently this president released $1.3 billion to Egypt because he says they’re obeying democracy. That was a week after they indicted 16 Americans for doing democracy work over there. So I don’t trust this administration or a Republican administration to really make a valid judgment. I want Congress and the people to have the right to decide whether the border is secure. Is that political? Yes, we live in a democracy, a Democratic republic. It will be political no matter whether it’s the president or congress.

This is all part of Rand Paul’s attempt to recover after he was savaged by his own party for initially supporting immigration reform. Sen. Paul just happened to list one of stupidest things imaginable as one of his criteria for supporting immigration reform. Paul’s suggestion that congress should get to vote on if the borders are secure was stunningly dumb.

As Candy Crowley pointed out, the vote would have no basis in reality because congress would make it political. More importantly, congress can vote to say that anything is true, but that doesn’t make it so. Congress could vote tomorrow that the sky is orange, but it wouldn’t really mean that the sky is orange, just that congress thinks it is.

The other problem with wanting congress to vote on whether or not the border is secure is that people don’t trust congress. In case Sen. Paul hasn’t noticed, 90% of the country doesn’t trust congress. The last people in the universe that the American people are likely trust on anything reside in the congress.

Paul may trust congress more than the president, but the American people don’t.

Rand Paul is absolutely desperate to suck up to the right after supporting immigration reform, but the load of idiotic bull that he tried to pass off as a reason for opposing immigration reform was nothing short of a shameful joke.

*********

June 24, 2013

Obama's 'Insider Threat' Program Asks Federal Workers To Snitch

By Susie Madrak
CrooksAndLiars

Obama's starting to remind me of an abusive parent, where everyone tiptoes around the house and speaks in whispers for fear of incurring Daddy's wrath. I mean, he's really pushing this surveillance and secrecy stuff hard, which is even more astounding, considering he said his would be the "most transparent administration ever." And now he wants to criminalize the press for reporting leaks. Uh huh:

    WASHINGTON — Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

    President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

    Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

    “Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

    The Obama administration is expected to hasten the program’s implementation as the government grapples with the fallout from the leaks of top secret documents by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the agency’s secret telephone data collection program. The case is only the latest in a series of what the government condemns as betrayals by “trusted insiders” who have harmed national security.

    “Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” Obama said on May 16 in defending criminal investigations into leaks. “They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk. . . . So I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”

    As part of the initiative, Obama ordered greater protection for whistleblowers who use the proper internal channels to report official waste, fraud and abuse, but that’s hardly comforting to some national security experts and current and former U.S. officials. They worry that the Insider Threat Program won’t just discourage whistleblowing but will have other grave consequences for the public’s right to know and national security.

    The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.

Go read the whole thing. It's quite Orwellian.
« Last Edit: Jun 24, 2013, 07:54 AM by Rad » Logged
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Edward Snowden never crossed border into Russia, says foreign minister

Sergei Lavrov's comments about fugitive US whistleblower deepen mystery surrounding his whereabouts

Miriam Elder in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 June 2013 11.17 BST

Russia's foreign minister has said the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden never crossed the border into Russia, deepening the mystery over his suspected flight from Hong Kong.

"I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world," Sergei Lavrov said.

"He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media," he said during a joint press conference with Algeria's foreign minister. "He did not cross the Russian border."

According to WikiLeaks, which said it facilitated his travel, Snowden fled Hong Kong on Sunday morning to transit via Moscow to an undisclosed third country. He has applied to be granted political asylum by Ecuador, whose London embassy is currently sheltering the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Russian news agencies, citing anonymous sources, reported that Snowden had arrived in Moscow on Sunday evening and met Ecuadorean diplomats at Sheremetyevo airport while awaiting a Monday afternoon flight to Havana, from where he would travel to Venezuela. Snowden did not show up for the flight.

Passengers arriving on the Hong Kong to Moscow flight that was suspected to be carrying Snowden said they saw police activity and at least one black car drive up to the plane before they were allowed to disembark.

That fuelled speculation that Snowden may have been whisked from the plane before going through passport control. Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, an Icelandic businessman with links to WikiLeaks, told Reuters last week that he had readied a private jet to aid Snowden's flight from Hong Kong should the Icelandic government grant him asylum.

The US has warned Russia and China against helping Snowden as it seeks his extradition to face charges of espionage for gathering and disclosing documents outlining US surveillance programmes.

The White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that the US was working under the assumption that Snowden was in Russia.

Lavrov lashed out angrily at suggestions that Russia was involved. "We consider the attempts we are now seeing to blame the Russian side for breaking US laws and being almost in on the plot totally baseless and unacceptable, and even an attempt to threaten us," he said.

********

China's state newspaper praises Edward Snowden for 'tearing off Washington's sanctimonious mask'

State-run People's Daily says whistleblower has exposed US hypocrisy after Washington blamed Beijing for his escape

Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 June 2013 10.22 BST   

Link to video: Barack Obama says US will pursue Edward Snowden

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/25/barack-obama-edward-snowden-video

China's top state newspaper has praised the fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden for "tearing off Washington's sanctimonious mask" and rejected accusations Beijing had facilitated his departure from Hong Kong.

The strongly worded front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist party, responded to harsh criticism of China from the US for allowing Snowden to flee.

The Chinese government has said it was gravely concerned by Snowden's allegations that the US had hacked into many networks in Hong Kong and China, including Tsinghua University, which hosts one of the country's internet hubs, and Chinese mobile network companies. It said it had taken the issue up with Washington.

"Not only did the US authorities not give us an explanation and apology, it instead expressed dissatisfaction at the Hong Kong special administrative region for handling things in accordance with law," wrote Wang Xinjun, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science in the People's Daily commentary.

"In a sense, the United States has gone from a 'model of human rights' to 'an eavesdropper on personal privacy', the 'manipulator' of the centralised power over the international internet, and the mad 'invader' of other countries' networks," the People's Daily said.

The White House said allowing Snowden to leave was "a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship".

The People's Daily, which reflects the thinking of the government, said China could not accept "this kind of dissatisfaction and opposition".

"The world will remember Edward Snowden," the newspaper said. "It was his fearlessness that tore off Washington's sanctimonious mask".

The exchanges mark a deterioration in ties between the two countries just weeks after a successful summit meeting between presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. But experts say Washington is unlikely to resort to any punitive action.

A commentary in the Global Times, owned by the People's Daily, also attacked the US for cornering "a young idealist who has exposed the sinister scandals of the US government".

"Instead of apologising, Washington is showing off its muscle by attempting to control the whole situation," the Global Times said.

Snowden gave US authorities the slip by leaving Hong Kong on an Aeroflot plane to Moscow on Sunday. The US had requested his detention for extradition to the US on treason charges but the Hong Kong authorities responded that the papers had not been in order and Snowden was free to leave.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Washington did not believe the explanation that it was a "technical" decision by Hong Kong immigration authorities. "The Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr Snowden's travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel as appropriate. We do not buy the suggestion that China could not have taken action."

On Monday Snowden had been expected to board another plane from Moscow for Cuba and ultimately fly from there to Ecuador, which is considering granting him asylum. But journalists who boarded the plane in Moscow soon found Snowden had not taken his seat.

When the plane landed in Cuba there was likewise no sign that Snowden had been on board. The pilot greeted journalists at Havana's Jose Marti international airport by pulling out his own camera, taking pictures of the them and saying: "No Snowden, no."

The harshly worded Chinese commentaries did not appear on the country's main news portals on Tuesday afternoon. Instead most articles focused on hard news, such as Snowden's still-unknown final destination, his relationship with WikiLeaks and the details of his departure from Hong Kong.

Another editorial in the People's Daily on Monday defended the Hong Kong government for allowing Snowden to leave despite a US warrant for his arrest, claiming that it acted according to the law and "will be able to withstand examination".

"The voices of a few American politicians and media outlets surrounding the Prism scandal have become truly shrill," it said. "Not only do some of them lack the least bit of self-reflection but they also arrogantly find fault with other countries for no reason at all."

Shi Yinhong, an expert on China-US relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said the Snowden affair had given China's leaders an opportunity to shore up their own legitimacy domestically by projecting a strong message of US hypocrisy.

Yet behind the scenes, he said, top leaders were probably reluctant to allow the affair to significantly impact bilateral ties. "Maybe this will have an impact on public opinion in China, but for the Chinese government almost nothing has changed," he said. "Even if this damages China-US relations it'll be very temporary."

**********

US scrambles to find Edward Snowden and urges Russia to co-operate

Washington criticises China for allowing NSA whistleblower to leave but Snowden's whereabouts remain a source of confusion

Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts in Washington, Miriam Elder in Moscow, Tania Branigan in Hong Kong and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 June 2013 05.41 BST   

The attempt by Edward Snowden to escape the clutches of US authorities descended into farce when the 30-year-old surveillance whistleblower outpaced the world's biggest intelligence apparatus in a round-the-world chase that was still under way on Monday.

Washington could barely disguise its fury at the manner in which Snowden was hustled out of Hong Kong, despite the US having revoked his passport and demanded his detention. The White House made it clear that China-US relations had been placed under great strain.

China reacted angrily on Tuesday with commentaries in state-run newspapers rejecting US claims that it helped Snowden escape and portraying the whistleblower as a young idealist and a hero. The People's Daily said the US was criticising China when it should be apologising for hacking into the networks of China and Hong Kong as alleged by Snowden.

The whereabouts of Snowden remained unclear on Tuesday morning. Journalists who boarded a flight from Moscow to Havana, a suspected lay-over stop on a journey to Ecuador, reported that they could not see the former National Security Agency contractor on the plane, despite reports that he had checked in. Later the plane arrived in Cuba without any sign of Snowden.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, was sharply critical of Hong Kong's decision to allow Snowden to leave. He said the administration did not believe the explanation that it was a "technical" decision by Hong Kong immigration authorities. "The Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr Snowden's travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel as appropriate. We do not buy the suggestion that China could not have taken action."

Speaking in Dehli on Monday, US secretary of state John Kerry expressed frustration that China had failed to detain Snowden. "It would be deeply troubling, obviously, if they had adequate notice, and notwithstanding that, they make the decision wilfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law."

But in its strongly worded front-page commentary the People's Daily countered that Snowden's actions had "torn off Washington's sanctimonious mask". "In a sense the United States has gone from a 'model of human rights' to 'an eavesdropper on personal privacy', the 'manipulator' of the centralised power over the international Internet, and the mad 'invader' of other countries' networks," the official Communist party paper said.

Carney said the US was working on the assumption that Snowden was still in Russia, and said the administration was urging the authorities in Moscow to turn Snowden over to the US. "We have a strong co-operative relationship with the Russians on law enforcement matters," Carney said, in remarks that were notably less pointed than those directed at China. "We have known where he is and believe we know where he is now," Carney said.

Amid farcical scenes at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, an Aeroflot flight to Havana, packed with journalists, took off apparently without him. As the Airbus A330 began to roll back from the gate, Nikolai Sokolov, an Aeroflot gate employee, said: "He's not on board."

Around two dozen journalists settled in for the 12-hour journey on flight SU150 to Havana – a service on which no alcohol is served.

Reuters later reported that before the plane left, a white van approached and police stood by as a man in a white shirt climbed the stairs. This man could not be identified by reporters watching in the transit area.

When the plane landed in Cuba security was tight, with journalists awaiting its arrival forced to move outside the airport building. A member of the Aeroflot crew spoke briefly to reporters gathered outside Havana's Jose Marti international airport but would not give his name. "No special people on board," he said, smiling. "Only journalists."

The Associated Press said two of its journalists on the flight confirmed after it arrived on Monday evening in Havana that Snowden had not been on board.

When the captain of the Aeroflot plane emerged from customs he was surrounded by photographers. He pulled out his own camera, took pictures of the photographers and said: "No Snowden, no."

Ricardo Patino, Ecuador's foreign minister, speaking in Hanoi, said it was considering an asylum request by Snowden, but did not know where he was. "I cannot give you information about that. We are in contact with the Russian government, but this specific information about this precise situation of Edward Snowden, we cannot give it to you right now, because we don't have it."

Patino read out what he said was a statement from Snowden, in which the whistleblower compared himself to WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, currently on trial in the US for "aiding the enemy". Snowden apparently said: "It is unlikely that I will have a fair trial or humane treatment before trial, and also I have the risk of life imprisonment or death."

More details emerged on Monday about Snowden's last few days in Hong Kong. Albert Ho, a solicitor who acted for the former NSA contractor in Hong Kong, told the Guardian that Snowden has asked him to make inquiries of the authorities about their intentions. "I talked to government officials on Friday seeking verification of whether they really wanted him to go, and in case they really wanted him to go, whether he would be given safe passage."

Ho said Snowden made up his mind on Friday to leave for Moscow. "It was evident that extradition proceedings would begin quite quickly," Ho said.

Another source with knowledge of events in Hong Kong said Snowden appeared nervous when he left, and that he was not sure whether he might be heading into a trap. "It happened very suddenly, in one or two days. Before that he was thinking of staying and fighting the case," the source said.

"He well understood what the different situations were – and the consequences. Things were changing all the time. He knew that he was in trouble, but he didn't panic. He understood the consequences of what he had done, making enemies of many people, but he didn't regret it."

The WikLeaks founder Julian Assange, in a conference call from the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he is sheltering from Swedish extradition attempts, said he knew where Snowden was. It was unclear, however, how big a part Assange and WikiLeaks had played in Snowden's escape from Hong Kong. Assange said Wikileaks had paid for Snowden's travel costs and lodgings since he left Hong Kong.

Asked about how Snowden had been able to travel after his US passport had been revoked, Assange said Snowden had been "supplied with a refugee document of passage by the Ecuadoran government".

Another lawyer who acted for Snowden in Hong Kong, Robert Tibbo, asked about WikiLeaks' role in brokering Snowden's asylum deal: "All I can say is that this is a very complex situation."

Hong Kong authorities, in announcing Snowden's departure, issued a statement Sunday saying the US extradition request "failed to comply with legal requirements under Hong Kong law".

But US officials insisted that no objection had been raised in a series of high-level diplomatic exchanges. "At no point, in all of our discussions through Friday, did the authorities in Hong Kong raise any issues regarding the sufficiency of the US's provisional arrest request," the Justice Department said in a statement issued in the early hours of Monday. "In light of this, we find their decision to be particularly troubling."

Obama administration officials revealed that federal judges in the eastern district of Virginia secretly issued a warrant for Snowden's arrest on 14 June on charges of unauthorised disclosure of classified information and theft of government property. Multiple US government agencies worked extensively behind the scenes to convince Hong Kong to arrest and extradite Snowden on a warrant also issued on 14 June. But not even a phone call on 19 June placed by attorney general Eric Holder to his Hong Kong counterpart convinced Hong Kong to comply with the US request.

In Washington on Monday, Carney denied that the US would "give up" if Snowden was allowed to leave Russia and revealed that pressure was already being put on Ecuador. "We are in touch through diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries that might serve as a final destination or transit route," he said.

In heated exchanges, the White House rejected comparisons with its previous support of "political dissidents" made by a Russian journalist at the briefing. "There is a big difference," said Carney. "Snowden has been indicted with a criminal offence".

The Russian journalist was shushed quiet by another reporter in the White House press room when attempting to ask a follow-up question.

***********

June 24, 2013

Hasty Exit Started With Pizza Inside a Hong Kong Hideout

By KEITH BRADSHER
IHT

HONG KONG — Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has acknowledged leaking numerous documents about American surveillance operations around the world, planned his escape from Hong Kong over a surreptitious dinner of pizza, fried chicken and sausages, washed down with Pepsi.

It was a cloak-and-dagger affair. Mr. Snowden wore a cap and sunglasses and insisted that the assembled lawyers hide their cellphones in the refrigerator of the home where he was staying, to block any eavesdropping. Then began a two-hour conversation during which Mr. Snowden was deeply dismayed to learn that he could spend years in prison without access to a computer during litigation over whether he would be granted asylum here or surrendered to the United States.

Staying cooped up in the cramped Hong Kong home of a local supporter was less bothersome to Mr. Snowden than the prospect of losing his computer.

“He didn’t go out, he spent all his time inside a tiny space, but he said it was O.K. because he had his computer,” said Albert Ho, one of Mr. Snowden’s lawyers. “If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable.”

After the meeting, Mr. Ho was sent to ask the Hong Kong government if Mr. Snowden would be released on bail if he were arrested or whether he would be allowed to leave the country.

A person with detailed knowledge of the Hong Kong government’s deliberations said that the government had been delighted to receive the questions. Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive, and his top advisers had been struggling through numerous meetings for days, canceling or postponing other meetings, while trying to decide what to do in response to an American request for Mr. Snowden’s detention, even as public opinion in Hong Kong seemed to favor protecting the fugitive.

But Mr. Snowden’s choice of Mr. Ho to represent him raised a problem, said the person with knowledge of the government’s deliberations, who insisted on anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities in the case. Mr. Ho, a member of the territory’s legislature for nearly 20 years, is a former chairman of the Democratic Party and a longtime campaigner for full democracy here, to the irritation of government leaders of the territory, which was returned by Britain to China in 1997.

“The Hong Kong government doesn’t trust him,” the person said, adding that the government also did not want to be involved in any direct negotiations with Mr. Snowden. So it found an intermediary, someone with longstanding connections to the local government but not in office, to bypass Mr. Ho and contact Mr. Snowden.

The intermediary told Mr. Snowden on Friday night that the government could not predict what Hong Kong’s independent judiciary would do, but that serving jail time while awaiting trial was a possibility. The intermediary also said that the Hong Kong government would welcome Mr. Snowden’s departure, Mr. Ho and the person who insisted on anonymity said. Both declined to identify the intermediary.

Mr. Snowden went through the same security and immigration channels as most passengers at the airport, rather than a special channel usually used for people involved in highly political cases — a sign that the Hong Kong government wanted to minimize its involvement in Mr. Snowden’s departure, Mr. Ho said.

At the same time, the Hong Kong government’s encouragement for Mr. Snowden to leave had convinced him that staying was risky because the Hong Kong government might not be on his side. “He would not like to fight with the Hong Kong government, with the Chinese government and the U.S. government” against him, Mr. Ho said.

Mr. Ho said that the disclosure late Friday evening of a sealed indictment against Mr. Snowden in the United States had prompted his client to become considerably more anxious about staying in Hong Kong.

Mr. Ho said that if the Hong Kong government had not assured Mr. Snowden of safe passage to the airport and exit from the territory, his client intended to seek the advice of Stephen Young, the United States consul general here, whom Mr. Ho knows socially. But the Hong Kong government’s assurance of safe passage meant that this plan was never discussed in depth, Mr. Ho added.

Obama administration officials expressed annoyance on Sunday that Hong Kong let Mr. Snowden get away. But the person with knowledge of the Hong Kong government’s deliberations said that there was considerable annoyance in Hong Kong about Washington’s handling of the case.

Mr. Ho said that Mr. Snowden had not been working for any government other than the United States. “He believed he was doing the right thing, serving the people,” Mr. Ho said, later adding, “Certainly he is not a spy for anybody — Russia, China.”

Mr. Snowden said in an interview published Monday by The South China Morning Post that he took a job as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton in order to gain access to N.S.A. surveillance programs.

“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the N.S.A. hacked,” he said on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”

Mr. Snowden, who just turned 30, came to Hong Kong from Honolulu without a well-thought-out plan, while overestimating how free he would be to move around Hong Kong after his disclosures and underestimating the public attention he would receive, Mr. Ho added.

“I really think he’s a kid, I think he never anticipated this would be such a big matter in Hong Kong,” Mr. Ho said.

When Mr. Snowden came to Hong Kong from Hawaii in late May, he looked up a person whom he had met on a previous vacation here. That person, whom Mr. Ho declined to identify but described as a well-connected Hong Kong resident, became Mr. Snowden’s “carer.” Mr. Snowden accepted an invitation to stay in the home of one of that person’s friends when he checked out of the Mira Hotel on June 10, and the individual put him in touch with two local lawyers.

They were Robert Tibbo, a barrister who specializes in human rights and refugee law, and Jonathan Man, an associate at Ho Tse Wai, Philip Li & Partners, one of Hong Kong’s best-known law firms.

Mr. Ho, a senior partner at that firm, said he met Mr. Snowden for the first time on the evening of the pizza dinner.

Mr. Snowden said little until they had arrived at a home, where he took Mr. Man aside and told him that “all the phones should be put in the refrigerator, the entire phones, and then he became very outspoken,” Mr. Ho said.

When Mr. Snowden went to the airport, he had a plan to reach a country where he believed he could obtain asylum, partly from discussions with Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks adviser who had come to Hong Kong and begun assisting Mr. Snowden, Mr. Ho said. As for Mr. Snowden’s final intended destination, Mr. Ho said that it was almost certainly not Iceland or Cuba and that Mr. Snowden intended only to pass in transit through Moscow. He refused to discuss whether his destination was Ecuador.

***********

Edward Snowden leaves reporters chasing shadows around an airport

US whistleblower's rumoured arrival then non-departure from Russia leaves many in Moscow asking: was he ever even here?

Miriam Elder in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Monday 24 June 2013 16.46 BST   

As the Aeroflot jet bound for Havana rolled away from the gate at Sheremetyevo airport, the question became: was he ever even really here?

For more than 24 hours the sprawling international airport on Moscow's northern outskirts was the site of an intricate game of cat-and-mouse. The target: Edward Snowden, sought by an enraged US, which has charged him with leaking classified documents on US surveillance programmes and warned countries suspected of abetting his escape.

The action culminated at 2pm on Monday afternoon outside gate 28, where Snowden was checked in for a flight to Havana, another stopover en route to Venezuela or Ecuador, where he had sought political asylum.

Dozens of journalists assembled at the window, hoping to spot the man who had eluded them for endless hours inside Sheremetyevo's winding halls. Hours later, they imagined, they would have Snowden cornered, ready to spill his innermost thoughts as the plane hurtled towards Havana for a full 12 hours.

The news zoomed through the hall – Russian news agencies reported that Snowden and his travelling companion, Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, had checked into seats 17A and 17C. Those seated nearby were giddy.

As the plane started to board, more than a dozen Aeroflot agents converged on the gate and ushered reporters away from the windows.

They threatened to confiscate cameras and telephones, and attempted to block the view. Some journalists said they were ready to hide their telephones in their pants. Anything for a snap of Snowden.

One by one, the journalists got on board – all the world's media, and Russia's too. The line dwindled to a crawl and the Aeroflot agents began to whisper: "He's not on board."

The gate closed. A detachable staircase pulled away from the aircraft. The Airbus began to roll backward. "He's not on board," said Nikolai Sokolov, an Aeroflot gate employee, his eyes wide. "I was waiting for him myself."

Around two dozen journalists settled in for the 12-hour journey to Havana – a flight on which no alcohol is served, much to the chagrin of the reporters, many of whom aren't used to going half a day without a stiff drink.

And, yet again, Snowden was nowhere to be found.

He was reportedly in Moscow for 21 hours but no photographs or video of him have emerged – no leaks from the Federal Security Service or police, who use the website Life News to broadcast the news they want the world to see.

Moscow has made its overtures to Snowden obvious, with Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, repeatedly saying the Kremlin would consider an asylum request from the American, as it would from any other. But the events come amid the worst Russian-US relations since the end of the cold war, with the Kremlin once again making anti-Americanism a central governing pillar. The sight of a US whistleblower, hounded by his own government, being welcomed on Russian soil would be nothing short of a coup.

But was he ever here?

When it emerged on Sunday morning that Snowden had boarded Aeroflot flight SU23 from Hong Kong to Moscow en route to an undisclosed third country, journalists streamed towards the airport. They shoved pictures of Snowden into the faces of disembarking passengers, asking: "Have you seen this man?"

Most shrugged and pushed on through the crowd. Two Spanish men, transiting through Moscow en route to Madrid, thought that maybe one of them had. It was the first suspected sighting of a man who would become a ghost.

Russian news agencies jumped into the story, issuing a host of contradictory information by citing an endless stream of anonymous sources. "Snowden is in the transit area!" "Snowden has been examined by an Ecuadorian doctor." While the Hong Kong-Moscow plane was still in midair, somewhere over the Siberian city of Omsk, the Kremlin's English-language channel, Russia Today, flashed: "Snowden already in Russia – SOURCE."

Journalists were not alone in waiting for Snowden. Outside the transit area in terminal F, a grey branch of the airport that remains frozen in Soviet times, plainclothes officers attempted to blend in. As the day wore on, more and more arrived, some following reporters from a distance, others guarding heavy doors that appeared to lead nowhere.

Snowden is believed to have landed in Moscow shortly after 5pm on Sunday. Lacking a Russian visa, and stripped of his US passport anyway, he could not leave the airport. That left the Capsule Hotel, a newly opened site in Sheremetyevo's terminal E, featuring sparse suites with room for little more than a bed. Receptionists there examined photos of Snowden and said they had never seen him.

As evening began to fall, Ecuador's ambassador to Moscow arrived. He too was seeking Snowden (the country's foreign minister later said it had received an asylum request). He did not know where to find Snowden. He was still waiting in the airport, empty of its daytime rush, at 2am on Monday. It was unclear whether he had, at that point, achieved his goal.

The comparisons began to roll in. It was like that Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, about a stateless man stuck in New York's JFK airport.

Or like that other Tom Hanks movie, Catch Me If You Can. The overtones of Waiting for Godot, about expecting the arrival of a man who never arrives, were, perhaps, too obvious.

Nothing like that was to come. Those chasing Snowden resorted to following ridiculous leads – was that group of Russian agents milling around a handicapped people's bathroom hiding Snowden? That airport employee, rolling a tray with three plates, was she about to feed Snowden, Harrison and an unknown third party? That man with the sunglasses, he kind of looks like him, doesn't he?

By 4pm on Monday, after spending 27 consecutive hours inside Sheremetyevo's barely air-conditioned halls, Lidia Kelly, a journalist with Reuters, squinted her eyes in the direction of an overweight senior citizen and asked: "Wait, is that Julian Assange?"

The hunt for Snowden continues.

************

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa considering request to give Edward Snowden asylum

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, June 24, 2013 20:50 EDT

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who has given the United States headaches throughout his tenure, risks more trouble if he grants political asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Much greater powers — China and Russia — have vexed the United States during Snowden’s global cat-and-mouse game, but this Andean nation has defied its giant neighbor to the north since Correa took office in 2007.

The leftist leader already needled Washington last year by giving shelter to a Snowden ally, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, at Ecuador’s embassy in London, protecting him from sexual assault claims in Sweden.

Now Correa, who was re-elected in February, is weighing Snowden’s asylum request and said on Twitter on Monday that he would make the decision “that we deem to be the most appropriate, and fully respecting our sovereignty.”

“This is an anti-imperialist posture that seeks to defend the capacity of small nations to take action in the international arena,” said Michel Levi, a foreign policy expert at the Andina University of Quito.

Relations between the United States and Ecuador reached a low in April 2011, when Quito expelled US ambassador Heather Hodges after WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable in which she suggested that Correa appointed a new police chief despite knowing he was corrupt.

A new US ambassador was installed last year.

In 2009, Correa ended an arrangement that allowed the United States to operate an anti-drug base on the Pacific coast.

The Snowden case could end any hope of the United States reviving trade benefits under a program that compensates Andean nations that help combat drug production, said Francisco Carrion, professor at the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty.

“There could be other repercussions in trade and investments, with requests for credit from the Inter-American Development Bank rejected by the United States, and a reduction in cooperation,” Carrion said.

Snowden, who revealed a massive US surveillance program, was believed to be heading to Quito when he landed in Moscow, but he was not seen on a flight to Cuba on which he was booked on Monday and his whereabouts are a mystery.

Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, speaking during a visit to Vietnam, praised Snowden’s actions, saying the 30-year-old fugitive was trying to “shed light and transparency” on US practices.

But Correa has himself been under fire from international rights groups over a new media law that critics say curtails press freedoms by cutting the private sector’s share of radio and TV frequencies.

Marco Romero, director of global studies at Andina University, said the Snowden case puts Ecuador at the center of global debate on the limits of civil liberties when it comes to national security.

But he said Correa’s position also serves “internal (political) consumption” because it contradicts of the criticism of his strained relations with the press.

Correa, who signed the controversial media law on Monday, accuses some news organizations of conspiring against him.

One day after Assange was given asylum last year, Ecuadoran journalist Emilio Palacio was granted asylum by the United States.

Palacio was sentenced to three years in prison and a huge fine for insulting Correa. But at the president’s request, the court annulled the conviction, which also affected three directors of El Universo newspaper.





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« Reply #7118 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:14 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/24/2013 12:25 PM

Global Surveillance: The Public Must Fight for its Right to Privacy

A Commentary by Christian Stöcker

The British-American surveillance program Tempora marks a historic turning point. Unnoticed by the public, intelligence agencies have pursued total surveillance. Governments have deliberately concealed from the public the extent to which we are being watched.

The term, "information superhighway" has always been insufficient to describe the Internet. In reality, the Web is a global communication space containing the private information of a large part of the population of every developed country. If someone were able to train an all-seeing eye onto the Internet, the blackmail potential would be almost limitless.

It is precisely this all-seeing eye that the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the American National Security Agency (NSA) have developed under the name Tempora. An appropriate real-world metaphor for the program might be something like this: In every room of every house and every apartment, cameras and microphones are installed, every letter is opened and copied, every telephone tapped. Everything that happens is recorded and can be accessed as needed.

It sounds preposterous, but it is frighteningly close to the reality that was unveiled by the Guardian on Friday. Together, the GCHQ and NSA monitor Internet traffic by tapping directly into the data stream sent through fiber-optic cables. They are able to copy and cache this data, to be sifted through later as needed.

Those behind this disgraceful program have not even bothered to deny what they are up to. The British spy agency has said it will not be commenting on the program -- but said that whatever they do is in the service of the fight against terrorism and subject to strict legal controls. The NSA has been making this same argument since the Prism program was unveiled earlier this month. What we're doing, they say, is for a good cause. It's all regulated, and we're only looking at the information collected when we deem it necessary.

But that's all just pretence.

Would the public agree to the total video surveillance of their private living space because it could possibly also help in the pursuit of terrorists? Would we be satisfied with the fact that we would only be observed if some unnamed intelligence analyst considered it necessary? Of course not. A government proposing such a program would be forced out of office -- and rightly so.

Where is the Outrage?

It therefore seems odd that the reactions in the Anglo-Saxon world have been so restrained. Sure, the Guardian, as well as the Washington Post, have reported in detail about the programs. Yet in the political sphere, it was mainly a few German politicians voicing their outrage.

And for good reason. The fact that the Americans and the British -- it is yet to be revealed who else participated -- have granted themselves this enormous power, without ever informing their own people, is a scandal of historic proportions. To the initiated, all the recent public debate about data retention, Internet privacy and the practices of Facebook and Google must have been downright amusing. The state, as it turns out, knew everything all along.

That was precisely the goal, according to the head of the NSA, Lieutenant General Keith Alexander. "Why can't we collect all the signals all the time?" he asked in an internal document acquired by the Guardian. "Sounds like a good summer project for Menwith," he continued, referring to a GCHQ/NSA facility at Menwith Hill in northern England.

Voters Must Defend Themselves

A different quote shows that intelligence personnel lied to the public following the first revelations of the existence of the program. European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that, in meetings with US officials, she had been assured that data from Europeans had not been collected "in bulk." The surveillance of Europeans, they insisted to Reding, had been targeted and only undertaken in exceptional cases. That now appears to be untrue -- it's just that the mass acquisition of data in Europe is taken care of by GCHQ, rather than by the NSA.

The public revelation of these activities in the Guardian, thanks to the risky actions of former NSA worker Edward Snowden, marks a turning point. The next weeks and months will show whether democratic societies across the world are strong enough to take a stand against the unlimited, totalitarian ambitions of Western secret services -- or not.

The governments of the countries in question apparently did not have the necessary backbone. They knew full well that the kind of surveillance being undertaken lacked all democratic legitimacy. But they pursued the programs anyway, behind the backs of their electorates.

It is now up to voters to defend themselves. It is up to us, whose data has landed as by-catch in the nets of Tempora. We must force our own representatives to defend our freedoms.

***********

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/24/2013 05:07 PM

Anglo-Saxon Spies: German National Security Is at Stake

A Commentary by Jakob Augstein

Overzealous data collectors in the US and Great Britain have no right to investigate German citizens. The German government must protect people from unauthorized access by foreign intelligence agencies, and it must act now. This is a matter of national security.

"Germany's security is also being defended in the Hindu Kush, too," Peter Struck, who was Germany's defense minister at the time, said in 2002. If that's true, then the government should also be expected to defend the security of its people at their own doorstep. Because the massive sniffing out and saving of data of all kinds -- that of citizens and businesses, newspapers, political parties, government agencies -- is in the end just that: a question of security. It is about the principles of the rule of law. And it is a matter of national security.

We live in changing times. At the beginning of last week, we thought after the announcement of the American Prism program, that US President Barack Obama was the sole boss of the largest and most extensive control system in human history. That was an error.

Since Friday, we have known that the British intelligence agency GCHQ is "worse than the United States." Those are the words of Edward Snowden, the IT expert who uncovered the most serious surveillance scandal of all time. American and British intelligence agencies are monitoring all communication data. And what does our chancellor do? She says: "The Internet is uncharted territory for us all."

That's not enough. In the coming weeks, the German government needs to show that it is bound to its citizens and not to an intelligence-industrial complex that abuses our entire lives as some kind of data mine. Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger hit the right note when she said she was shocked by this "Hollywood-style nightmare."

An Uncanny Alliance

We have Edward Snowden to thank for this insight into the interaction of an uncanny club, the Alliance of Five Eyes. Since World War II, the five Anglo-Saxon countries of Great Britain, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have maintained close intelligence cooperation, which apparently has gotten completely out of control.

It may be up to the Americans and the British to decide how they handle questions of freedom and the protection of their citizens from government intrusion. But they have no right to subject the citizens of other countries to their control. The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn't make them. We shouldn't be subject to them.

The totalitarianism of the security mindset protects itself with a sentence: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But firstly, that contains a presumption: We have not asked the NSA and GCHQ to "protect" us. And secondly, the sentence is a stupid one: Because we all have something to hide, whether it pertains to our private lives or to our business secrets.

No Agency Should Collect So Much Data

Thus the data scandal doesn't pertain just to our legal principles, but to our security as well. We were lucky that Edward Snowden, who revealed the spying to the entire world, is not a criminal, but an idealist. He wanted to warn the world, not blackmail it. But he could have used his information for criminal purposes, as well. His case proves that no agency in the world can guarantee the security of the data it collects -- which is why no agency should collect data in such abundance in the first place.

That is the well-known paradox of totalitarian security policy. Our security is jeopardized by the very actions that are supposed to protect it.

So what should happen now? European institutions must take control of the data infrastructure and ensure its protection. The freedom of data traffic is just as important as the European freedom of exchange in goods, services and money. But above all, the practices of the Americans and British must come to an end. Immediately.

It is the responsibility of the German government to see to it that the programs of the NSA and GCHQ no longer process the data of German citizens and companies without giving them the opportunity for legal defense. A government that cannot make that assurance is failing in one of its fundamental obligations: to protect its own citizens from the grasp of foreign powers.

Germans should closely observe how Angela Merkel now behaves. And if the opposition Social Democrats and Green Party are still looking for a campaign issue, they need look no further.


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« Reply #7119 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:16 AM »

June 24, 2013

Assange, Back in News, Never Left U.S. Radar

By DAVID CARR and RAVI SOMAIYA
IHT

In June 2011, Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland’s minister of the interior at the time, received an urgent message from the authorities in the United States. It said that “there was an imminent attack on Icelandic government databases” by hackers, and that the F.B.I. would send agents to investigate, Mr. Jonasson said in a telephone interview.

But when “eight or nine” F.B.I. agents arrived in August, Mr. Jonasson said, he found that they were not investigating an imminent attack, but gathering material on WikiLeaks, the activist group that has been responsible for publishing millions of confidential documents over the past three years, and that has many operatives in Iceland.

Mr. Jonasson asked the agents to leave, he said, because they had misrepresented the purpose of their visit.

The operation in Iceland was part of a wide-ranging investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, for their roles in the release of American military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The investigation has been quietly gathering material since at least October 2010, six months after the arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the army enlistee who is accused of providing the bulk of the leaks.

Until he re-emerged this week as an ally for Edward J. Snowden, the former computer contractor who leaked details of National Security Agency surveillance, Mr. Assange looked like a forgotten man. WikiLeaks had not had a major release of information in several years, its funds had dwindled and several senior architects of its systems left, citing internal disputes. Mr. Assange himself is holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he fled to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual abuse.

But the United States government had not forgotten about him. Interviews with government agents, prosecutors and others familiar with the WikiLeaks investigation, as well as an examination of court documents, suggest that Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks are being investigated by several government agencies, along with a grand jury that has subpoenaed witnesses.

Tens of thousands of pages of evidence have been gathered. And at least four other former members of WikiLeaks have had contact with the United States authorities seeking information on Mr. Assange, the former members said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter they were informed was confidential.

In response to recent questions from The New York Times and others, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed that it “has an investigation into matters involving WikiLeaks, and that investigation remains ongoing,” but he declined to offer any details.

The prosecution of WikiLeaks would put the administration into tricky legal territory. WikiLeaks is an international organization, and, unlike Private Manning and Mr. Snowden, Mr. Assange and the other members did not work for the United States government or its contractors and could not be charged with espionage.

WikiLeaks maintains it was functioning as a publisher by enabling the release of information in the public interest, and it has frequently been a partner with traditional news organizations, including The New York Times and The Guardian. If the government charged WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange as co-conspirators, it would be arguing that, unlike their partners, they are not journalists.

“Given the government’s aggression in the Snowden case, I would expect that the government will continue to move forward with the Assange case on a conspiracy theory, even though WikiLeaks would seem eligible for First Amendment protections,” said James C. Goodale, a First Amendment lawyer who previously worked for The Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press.”

He added that no reporter had ever been successfully prosecuted on a conspiracy charge but that recent actions, like the investigation of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, was evidence that the  government was “moving toward criminalizing the reporting process.”

The Times has never been contacted as part of a WikiLeaks investigation said David E. McCraw, its assistant general counsel. “But I would note that the proposed shield law,” he said, describing new legislation that the administration says is an effort to shield journalists from prosecution, “tries to define Wiki-like publishers out of the definition of news organizations.”

Mr. Assange declined to be interviewed, but said in a statement to The Times that the Justice Department “and its accompanying F.B.I. investigation are blinded by their zeal to get rid of publishers who speak truth to power.

“They believe U.S. agencies can flout laws, coerce people into becoming informants, steal our property and detain our alleged sources without trial,” the statement added.

The investigation has largely been carried out in secret, as most are, but a few clues have emerged. In December 2010, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia requested Twitter account information for Private Manning, Mr. Assange and Birgitta Jonsdottir, a former WikiLeaks activist and now a member of Iceland’s Parliament, among others.

A redacted version of the subpoena served on Ms. Jonsdottir cited a specific conspiracy provision that may have been aimed at those thought to have assisted Private Manning.

Other court orders have been disclosed. Last week, Herbert Snorrason, a former WikiLeaks member once close to Mr. Assange, wrote on his Web site that he had been provided orders, unsealed on May 2, including a search warrant served on Google for “all e-mail associated with my GMail account, every shred of information they had on my identity, and anything I’d uploaded to a Google service.”

Though no reason was given for the broad seizure of information, he said, he believes it is “because I had a conversation or a few with a white-haired Australian guy,” a reference to Mr. Assange. Mr. Snorrason said at least one other person in WikiLeaks’ extended circle of collaborators had received a similar disclosure at the same time. “These kinds of orders have been served on more of the people I know than I really care to think about,” he said.

The pretrial hearings in Private Manning’s case have also provided some hints. According to testimony in Private Manning’s hearings in 2011 and 2012, as transcribed by Alexa O’Brien, an activist who was present in court, Maj. Ashden Fein, on behalf of the prosecution, told the judge that an F.B.I. file that contained information on Private Manning “is much broader” than just his case and contained secret grand jury testimony. He said the file contained 3,475 documents and ran to 42,135 pages.

The F.B.I.’s activities in Iceland provide perhaps the clearest view of the government’s interest in Mr. Assange. A young online activist, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson (known as Siggi), told a closed session of Iceland’s Parliament this year that he had been cooperating with United States agents investigating WikiLeaks at the time of the F.B.I.’s visit in 2011.

“He was at the time going back and forwards going to meet Julian” at Ellingham Hall, a rural mansion in England where Mr. Assange was under house arrest, and “they were trying to get him to go there wearing a wire,” Ms. Jonsdottir said in an interview. Mr. Thordarson could not immediately be reached at numbers and e-mail addresses listed for him in Iceland.

It was not clear to what extent he had cooperated, Ms. Jonsdottir said. Some activists there believed he had been used as a double agent by Mr. Assange, gathering information about the investigation while he appeared to be cooperating.

The F.B.I. efforts left WikiLeaks supporters in Iceland shaken. “The paranoia,” Ms. Jonsdottir said, “is going to kill us all.”

Mr. Assange has alleged that there is a link between the accusations in Sweden and the American investigation, but no link has been shown. Under the terms of Mr. Assange’s arrest warrant, the United States would require Britain’s consent to extradite Mr. Assange for prosecution, even if he was to be extradited to Sweden first.

But Mr. Assange, and those around him, are convinced that, link or no, he is at risk of being extradited to the United States.

“Julian is in an incredibly unfair situation where he has not been charged with a crime in any country and the United States continues to place him in legal jeopardy by refusing to discuss the status of that investigation,” said Jennifer Robinson, a member of his legal team in London, adding. “He is in a no man’s land.”

It is not clear how much longer the investigation might take and whether it is active or open merely in case of further developments. But a former official involved in the case said any WikiLeaks investigation would probably run for “an exceptionally long time” before efforts were made to bring Mr. Assange to the United States.

The man who was at the center of the most famous press leak of all, the Pentagon Papers, thinks Mr. Assange will eventually be charged.

“There are people who say he is being paranoid or unreasonable, but that does not mean that they are not out to get him,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who was charged with releasing the Pentagon Papers, charges that were dismissed after there was evidence of illegal wiretapping by the government. “A grand jury has been convened, an investigation is under way, and I would be surprised if they did not go after him.”


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« Reply #7120 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:20 AM »


Poland: ‘A dangerous brown force’

Polska The Times,
 24 June 2013

A group of right-wing nationalists disrupted a June 22 lecture by famous Polish Jewish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in Wrocław.

Members of the Polish National Revival (NOP) chanted vulgar anti-communist slogans, in reference to Bauman’s past, when he served for a couple of years in the communist security unit after WWII.

This is just the latest such incident in Poland. Nationalists recently disrupted lectures given by Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the left-of-centre Gazeta Wyborcza, and left-wing professor of ethics Magdalena Środa, accusing them of being unpatriotic.

Interior Minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz recently warned skinhead organisations that he was “coming for them”.
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« Reply #7121 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:21 AM »


Albania: ‘Renaissance!’

Shekulli,
24 June 2013

Initial estimates indicate that socialist opposition leader “Edi Rama won the [general] elections,” held on June 23, reports Shekulli.

According to the daily, “Renaissance,” the coalition led by Rama, obtained 56 per cent of the vote, while the rival Alliance for Employment, Prosperity and Integration led by outgoing prime minister Sali Berisha, which is also claiming victory, scored 44 per cent.

With the country’s Electoral Commission in deadlock in the wake of the resignation of a number of its members, the definitive results may not known be known for several days. The vote was also marred by an exchange of gunfire in Laç in north of the country, which resulted in the death of one of Rama’s supporters, and injured a candidate from Berisha’s party.
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« Reply #7122 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:27 AM »


German Election: Merkel Promises Austerity Abroad, Profligacy at Home

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/25/2013 11:10 AM

Just when it seemed as though German politicians were going to completely forget to campaign ahead of September elections, Angela Merkel has finally showed signs that she hopes to be re-elected this fall. Following months of essentially ignoring her political opponents, the chancellor on Monday presented her party's campaign program and even deigned to launch what might be construed as an attack on her challengers.

"On Sept. 22, we must decide what direction we should take as a country," she told supporters in Berlin during the presentation of the 127-page platform. At issue, she said, is whether the country continues down its current path of success, "or whether things go downhill" under a Social Democrat-Green Party governing coalition.

But according to her critics, and her main opponent, the platform that her Christian Democrats (CDU) presented on Monday together with their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is little more than a package of expensive campaign promises that cannot be fulfilled.

Merkel's platform, said her Social Democratic challenger Peer Steinbrück on Monday, "consists of several platitudes and empty promises." SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel said the platform should be called the "election fraud program." Both say that Germany cannot afford the many promises that Merkel makes.

And they might have a point. Merkel has continually insisted that her party stands for fiscal responsibility in times of crisis in the common currency zone and demanded that Southern European countries pursue strict austerity programs. Indeed, on Monday she urged Europeans to not constantly be looking for the next "pot of money." Yet her platform is full of expensive promises. Tax benefits for families, for example, are to be boosted at a cost of €7.5 billion ($9.8 billion). An additional €1 billion per year is to be spent on road construction. And the conservatives have promised to tackle inequalities in the country's taxation system, a measure that could result in an annual tax revenue shortfall of €6 billion.

Big Back Door

Finally, Merkel has promised to change pension laws for women such that time spent home raising children will be considered when calculating retirement benefits. The cost is estimated to be €6.5 billion.

There are also myriad other promises to be found in the document, from improved school facilities to tax benefits for home owners who improve their home security systems. The CDU and CSU have also ruled out tax increases.

Despite the celebratory atmosphere conjured up for the presentation of the campaign platform on Monday, there are many within the party who are not at all pleased about the laundry list of gifts for the electorate that Merkel has drawn up. "The contest among the parties to constantly outdo each other when it comes to inventing new social benefits like the motherhood pension is irresponsible," Wolfgang Steiger, general secretary of the CDU's economic council, told SPIEGEL ONLINE last week.

Another member of the CDU's conservative wing seemed to suggest that not even the party itself planned to actually fulfil the pledges made in the platform. "Campaign promises are the things the parties promise in order to get elected," said Kurt Lauk, president of the CDU economic council, last week in Berlin. "It has never been the case that campaign promises are included one-to-one in a governmental program. Voters know that from experience."

On Monday, Merkel sought to assuage such concerns. "Solid finances and sensible investments are not contradictory," she said. She has, however, already provided herself with a backdoor. It remains to be seen, she said last week, whether there will be enough money to implement all of the promises listed in the platform. Particularly, she noted, given the amount of money that might have to be spent on flood recovery.

*********

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/25/2013 11:10 AM

About Face Chancellor Merkel Cools on European Integration

By SPIEGEL Staff

German conservatives have long been passionate supporters of increased European integration. But lately, Chancellor Angela Merkel has applied the brakes to the process. Brussels, she believes, has become part of the problem.

A party needs two things to win elections: a top candidate and a campaign platform. The European People's Party (EPP), a collection of conservatives and Christian Democrats in Europe, has neither at the moment. And that has a lot to do with CDU leader Angela Merkel.

Just one year ago, the German chancellor was calling for "more Europe, not less." But now she has completed a radical about-face. At the EPP summit in the Vienna Kursalon concert hall last Thursday, Merkel showed that she had transformed herself into an EU-skeptic. Her conservative colleagues were left with the impression that the German chancellor now believes that there is too much Europe.

Merkel spoke with notable frequency about the problems associated with choosing a candidate to represent the party on a European level. And in the end, the group made no progress on its platform or on the issue of a candidate.

What is wrong with the CDU leader? The meeting in Vienna coincides with the image of a chancellor who is deviating more and more openly from her party's traditional positions on European policy. She is increasingly distancing herself from the foreign policy tradition that the CDU, more than any other party, has maintained and upheld since the postwar period.

The contrast between Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who embodies this tradition of Christian Democratic European policy, is also becoming more noticeable. Whether it is the pace of integration, the necessity for changes to European treaties or the direct election of the European Commission president, there are no major issues on which the chancellor and her finance minister are of the same mind.

Never a Passionate Supporter

Merkel, now in her 14th year as party leader, has learned that she must inject a little pathos into her voice when the discussion turns to Europe. She will no doubt do so when she delivers her statement to German parliament prior to the European Union summit this Thursday. And because she is aware of the mood in her party, she did not intervene when the CDU, at its party convention in Leipzig two years ago, approved a position paper that advocated providing Brussels with significantly more power.

But she was never a passionate supporter of such a path. More recently, she has been standing firm against expanding the power of Brussels institutions. And she has been particularly vehement when it comes to anything that might limit the powers held by national leaders such as herself.

Many of her fellow conservatives, of course -- particularly those who grew up in West Germany -- still believe that Germany must be merged as completely as possible into the European entity. They see it as a natural consequence of the wrongs Germany committed during the Nazi era. Finance Minister Schäuble enthusiastically invokes the "vision of a continent growing more and more strongly together." He believes that the crisis offers an opportunity to pursue this path more quickly.

Officially, at least, this is the position of the party as a whole. The CDU continues to celebrate itself as champions of European unification and their position papers read as if they had been written by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who became teary-eyed when he spoke of the "House of Europe." "The commitment to Europe is for us both a matter of reason and a matter of the heart," reads the CDU campaign platform, which was approved on Sunday.

Top party officials have been instrumental in keeping such passion alive. Deputy party leader Ursula von der Leyen, who is Germany's labor minister, dreams of the continent growing together into a "United States of Europe." Schäuble came up with the idea of a European finance minister, who would have the power to dictate to the individual countries how much debt they could take on. And if recent CDU resolutions are to be taken seriously, the European Commission president, who is currently appointed by European leaders, will soon be elected directly by the people.

Individual Countries

For Merkel, however, reason trumps emotion, and her reason has led her for some time now to do everything she can to prevent further steps toward integration and prevent Brussels from gaining more power. She believes that it was precisely the unrealistic passion for a united Europe that led to the establishment of a common European currency which lacked a solid foundation. Vision? In an interview with SPIEGEL three weeks ago, Merkel warned against spending time "on theoretical discussions of how the European structures will look like in 10 or 15 years." She believes that it makes more sense to tackle the urgent problems of the euro crisis before engaging in complex debates over restructuring the bloc.

Furthermore, Merkel has no intention of taking her party's resolutions seriously. She wants the EU to work. But when there is trouble, she believes that the individual countries should take the reins, most notably Germany and France. This attitude leads Ruprecht Polenz, one of the CDU's most respected foreign policy experts, to conclude "that disillusionment is spreading within the party over the issue of Europe."

It has gotten to the point that Merkel feels strong enough to openly confront pro-European elements both in the German CDU and abroad. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, for example, was supposed to prepare a strategy paper on the future of the EU and present it at the summit this Thursday. But Merkel made it clear to Van Rompuy in January that he could forget about his paper.

Indeed, she has made sure that there will be no groundbreaking resolutions at all when EU leaders meet this week. Van Rompuy's efforts have been replaced by a document Merkel wrote together with French President François Hollande. Instead of strengthening the existing institutions, Merkel and Hollande merely propose a full-time president for the Euro Group, the group of euro-zone finance ministers that oversee the common currency. Officials in Brussels are outraged. "You can't be constantly sending Mr. Van Rompuy on trips to address the issue of Europe's continued development and then suddenly introduce your own paper," says European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who will likely be the top candidate for the Social Democrats in next year's European elections.

Part of the Problem

Merkel's stalling tactics are reigniting the old basic conflict that has accompanied Europe since its founding. For those on the one side, Europe will only make progress if integration and the transfer of power continues to progress. This is the bicycle theory espoused by long-serving European Commission President Jacques Delors: Those who don't keep moving ultimately fall over. Within the German government, Schäuble is a supporter of this theory.

Merkel, though, believes that Brussels has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution, especially in the euro crisis. The chancellor would like to see European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in particular, lean more strongly on heavily indebted Southern European countries to tackle domestic reform and get their budgets under control. Instead, he is now saying that the policy of austerity has reached its limits.

But Merkel's Europe-skepticism is also driven by self-interest. As a result of the crisis the German chancellor has seen her power increase considerably. When she travels to Brussels for meetings of European leaders, her voice tends to hold the most sway -- if only because Germany is the strongest economy in the euro zone. She sees little reason to share her power with, for example, Barroso, a man who she helped maneuver into his current position in 2004.

This also helps explain why she opposes the direct election of the Commission president -- a model supported by Finance Minister Schäuble. If European voters were to decide, heads of state and government would have less of a say, a scenario which Merkel would like to prevent. "I'm cautious in this regard," she said in the SPIEGEL interview. She argues that it is good for equilibrium among the institutions if European leaders are also involved in the decision.

'A Real Breakthrough'

While the chancellor is applying the brakes, Schäuble raves about a "historic moment of European unification." The direct election, he says, would be "a real breakthrough for a true European public."

And he's not the only one. Indeed, increasing numbers of German conservatives are vexed that Merkel no longer wants to discuss the long-term future of the European Union. "Europe will only emerge from the crisis if we know where we want to go," says Norbert Röttgen, a CDU member of German parliament and former environment minister. Europe, he adds, needs a new political architecture.

The 70-year-old Schäuble, for his part, is once again running for a seat in German parliament in part because he sees the euro crisis as an opportunity to fix the mistakes made during the creation of the common currency. Yet Schäuble is now forced to look on as Merkel puts off European reforms indefinitely. With the campaign starting, he cannot launch a direct attack. But he has stated his position clearly: "The Commission must have a real government," he said recently.

Of course, Schäuble also recognizes the challenges associated with making changes to European treaties. "A convention should only be called if there is a chance that it will produce results," he says. "But that doesn't change the fact that we will have to amend the treaties. The sooner, the better."

Most of all, there is growing disillusionment among German conservatives over the lack of ambition shown in their new campaign platform. "It isn't enough to say that Europe has to emerge strengthened from the crisis," says CDU foreign policy expert Polenz. The CDU, he argues, also has to explain how it intends to achieve this.

Spreading Discontent

"We need an answer to the question of where we want to go with Europe," says European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who is a long-time CDU member. Oettinger isn't willing to simply go along with Merkel's about-face. "The direct election of the Commission president is the goal of the national CDU," he adds. Deputy CDU Chairman Armin Laschet agrees, saying: "The crisis has shown that we must strengthen European institutions."

The discontent could soon spread. A rare act of resistance was on display last Friday evening in Arnsberg, a small town near Dortmund. At a meeting of state, federal and European lawmakers from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Laschet, the head of the CDU in the state, made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the part of the campaign platform dealing with European policy.

Laschet wants his party to express more concrete prospects for Europe and said that the North Rhine-Westphalia state chapter of the CDU would adopt its own European policy guidelines before September general elections. Laschet seeks to strengthen Brussels on issues such as fighting international terrorism and organized crime, as well as energy policy. He also wants to see the Commission president be elected directly by European voters.

It is a demand that Merkel abandoned long ago.

BY MELANIE AMANN, PETER MÜLLER, RENÉ PFISTER and CHRISTOPH SCHULT

Translated from The German by Christopher Sultan


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« Reply #7123 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:28 AM »


EU institutions: Netherlands wants less Europe almost everywhere

24 June 2013
De Volkskrant

The Dutch coalition government said in a memo published on June 21 that: "The Netherlands is convinced that the time of an “ever closer union” in every possible policy area is behind us", reports the EUobserver. According to the news website, the memo “said the Union's slogan should be "European where necessary, national where possible." It also said –

    there is a ‘strong need’ for joint EU action on big-ticket items, such as economic governance, migration and defence. But it noted that a review of EU powers by its foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, shows an equal need for ‘creating a European Union that is more modest, more sober.’

Sheila Sitalsing of De Volkskrant is not positive about the memo –

    On the government’s list is school milk and school fruit. That is a pertinent question. Because the indoctrination of schoolchildren with free apples is a flagrant attack on the sovereign nation state, but it has nothing to do with the essential ideas about Europe or the call back of policy areas. [...] EU member states could agree on the fact they should stay away of each other’s tax systems, but if they subsequently give the power to Olli Rehn to make constraining economical ‘policy recommendations’ [...] this directly affects the tax system. [...] The government has given a gift to the audience, a bone to keep the Eurosceptics quiet.
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« Reply #7124 on: Jun 25, 2013, 06:31 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/24/2013 02:37 PM

A Country Divided: Where Is Turkey Headed?

By Daniel Steinvorth and Bernhard Zand

The uprising against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly shows the deep divide between modernity and tradition in Turkey. Economic growth had long disguised the cleft. But now, the country must decide what its future will hold.

The first thing a visitor sees after passing through passport control in Istanbul is a monument to cosmopolitanism, consumption and the pleasures of drinking: a giant display shelf, 25 meters (80 feet) long, containing gin, vodka and whiskey, as well as wines from France, Italy and the US. Sales at the duty-free mall in Istanbul's Atatürk Airport are among the highest in Europe.

This would have pleased the man for whom the airport was named. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, known as Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, liked to drink Raki, the Turkish anise-flavored brandy, even on Muslim holidays.

Turkey's current prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, believes drinking alcohol is a sin. Even as mayor of Istanbul, he bullied bar owners and banned the serving of alcohol on government-owned property. Four weeks ago, he pushed through a new alcohol law that prohibits both the selling of alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m. and advertising for beer and wine. "The old alcohol law," he told the parliament, "was passed by two drunkards. Shouldn't we prefer the law of God instead?" One of the drunkards he was referring to was Atatürk, and the other was apparently Atatürk's successor, Ismet Inönü.

The Turks don't have a particular problem with alcoholism. But the seemingly minor change to the country's alcohol laws touches on a fundamental issue nonetheless. The country's very identity is at stake -- just as it is when it comes to social norms on clothing, beard styles and family planning.

The protests that began four weeks ago over a controversial construction project at Istanbul's Gezi Park revealed to the astonished leadership in Ankara and a surprised global public how open the identity of modern Turkey remains. It is a country that has always had its sights set firmly on the West, ever since its founding 90 years ago, its accession to NATO more than 60 years ago and its application for admission to the European Union 25 years ago. This country, which has experienced a remarkable economic boom for the last decade, is now confronted with the same question it faced 90 years ago: Who do we want to be? Where does Turkey want to go?

Provincial Simpletons?

The recent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations have served to highlight the two fundamental currents that drive Turkish society. There is the progressive, urban, Europe-oriented current on the one hand. And the conservative, rural movement that is deeply influenced by Islam, on the other.

They couldn't stand it anymore, say Turkish activists, that their prime minister and his fellow Islamists were trying to dictate to them how they should dress, how many children they should have and whether they could engage in public displays of affection. They are tired, say the supporters of Erdogan's conservative Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), of being patronized by a westernized elite and being berated as provincial simpletons.

Both sides claim to be speaking for the majority of Turks. This is possible because Turkey today is a far more complex entity than the backward country of soldiers and farmers that Atatürk encountered beneath the ruins of the defunct Ottoman Empire.

The urbanization of the 20th century and the economic boom of the early 21st century have blurred and even confused traditional divides. During Erdogan's first term, in which he was supported by an overwhelming pro-European majority, it seemed as if a pluralistic democracy were developing. In 2005, the European Union embarked on accession talks with Turkey.

The altercations of recent weeks seem to belie the confidence of those years. The conflict shows that political differences in Turkey have actually intensified under the cover of the economic boom. The sense of outrage has increased and the divide running through Turkish society has deepened.

There are two social groups: the urban "white Turks" (beyaz türkler), who look down on the rural "black Turks" (kara türkler). Both groups have expanded their influence in the last 10 years. While Turkey's real per capita income has increased by a factor of one-and-a-half, Turkey has become both more cosmopolitan and more religious, more progressive and more conservative, more urban and more provincial.

Long Ignored

This divide is especially evident in Istanbul, a city of 14 million. It is one of the top travel destinations for young people from all over Europe today. Istanbul attracts international DJs, filmmakers and performance artists, and the city's museums and galleries exhibit works that would never have been seen under the secular governments of the 1980s and 90s. A Picasso exhibition in 2006, when Istanbul was named the European Capital of Culture, attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers. Exhibition posters depicting nudes were still hanging on walls four years later.

Patrons of the arts, like the heirs of the Koç and Sabanci Turkish industrial dynasties, support a local cultural scene that no longer has anything in common with the dry Kemalist state-sponsored art of decades gone by. Many of Turkey's most creative artists were among the demonstrators in recent weeks, including performance artist Erdem Gündüz who, after Gezi Park was cleared last week, stood in front of a portrait of Atatürk for hours without moving or saying a word. His solo vigil confused police officers and inspired hundreds of copycats within hours.

The self-confidence demonstrated by the opposition in Gezi Park is confronted with a self-confidence expressed in other places and in other ways. It is the confidence of Turks who have long been ignored by the Kemalist establishment, who congregate at the AKP rallies, and who express, with disarming openness, that they are now in power. "We are the silent majority, not the rabble that is trying to scare us," says Erdogan supporter Ruveyda Alkan at a pro-AKP demonstration last Monday. Murat Arslan, a vendor from the Islamist neighborhood of Fatih, said: "The opposition is trying to provoke people, cause trouble and win votes. It wants to overthrow the government, but it won't succeed."

Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagi was equally clear last Thursday in rejecting the criticism of the German government: "If Ms. Merkel takes a closer look, she will see that those who mess about with Turkey do not find an auspicious end." In response, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "Unfortunately, the reaction to the protests was not very European, especially the exaggerated, strident rhetoric. Those who see themselves as part of a community of values should protect peaceful protests and not perceive them as a threat. Nevertheless, I am in favor of not scaling back dialogue with Turkey, but instead working toward strengthening communication, especially on the subject of the rule of law."

'Dirty Whores'

Soon afterwards, Bagi upped the ante when he said that Merkel should withdraw her concerns over Turkey's surly behavior and how it affects EU accession. He even imposed an ultimatum of Monday, saying that there would be consequences if it were not met.

The self-confidence of AKP supporters is also evident in the bearing of those conservative and economically successful Anatolians and Black Sea Turks who have done well in Istanbul. They have established a zone of mosques and minarets in their neighborhoods, creating a different Istanbul, a city where bikini ads are painted over and store owners are called upon to stop selling alcohol. It is a city where members of the new Muslim bourgeoisie are building mansions in the neo-Ottoman style so that their wealth doesn't look European. In districts like Fatih and Sultanbeyli, there is growing pressure on residents to behave in ways that reflect religious norms. "From one day to the next, all female kindergarten teachers were wearing veils," says a mother who was dropping off her children at an Istanbul daycare center. "They call us dirty whores, just because we're wearing short sleeves and short skirts," two female pupils from Pendik, an Istanbul suburb, reported last week.

Modern Turks feel as out of place in these areas as conservatives feel in the liberal quarters in the western part of the city. When a foreign TV crew pointed its camera at a rural family at the Kabata boat landing below Taksim Square a few days ago, a young Turkish woman wearing modern clothing berated the journalists in English, saying: "You shouldn't constantly be filming these people. That's not the real Turkey."

The search for what, exactly, the definition of "real Turkey" is began decades ago. The revolution that Atatürk visited on the rump state of the Ottoman Empire was one of the radical cultural shifts of the 20th century. He replaced Arabic script with the Latin alphabet, and Islamic law and the sultanate with Western ideas. He introduced voting rights for men and women, created a secular education system and barred Turks from wearing Turkish trousers, headscarves and the traditional fez in government offices and universities. His methods were often heavy-handed, but his contribution to modernization is undisputed.

First-Term Successes

The controversial question that Atatürk left behind for the country was that of the relationship between state and religion. The army intervened against politicians, including those who were religious conservatives, three times, in 1960, 1971 and 1980. After the fourth, bloodless military coup directed against the Islamists, then Istanbul Mayor Erdogan was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

It was a turning point that played an important role in the charismatic politician's rise to power -- and also informs the crisis in which he currently finds himself. After the sentence, Erdogan parted ways with his radical mentor, ousted Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, and embarked on a path toward the political center. It was an inspired strategic shift and one that later allowed him to capture the kind of lasting majorities that had been unheard of in Turkish politics to that point.

Erdogan's achievements cannot be denied. While Atatürk modernized the country, Erdogan developed it into a respected regional power. While Atatürk secularized Turkey, Erdogan democratized it. No foreign observer ever voiced doubts over his election victories. But his lasting successes -- liberating Turkey from the military's grip, bringing prosperity to broad segments of the population and the beginning of accession negotiations with the EU -- all occurred in his first term.

Journalists and former associates who have observed him over the years date the shift in his career to the period following his second election win in 2007, when the first signs of high-handedness appeared. He dragged cartoonists into court who had portrayed him as a cat, a horse or a cow, he persecuted the Dogan press group, which had fallen out of favor with the prime minister, and his courts sent hundreds of military leaders to prison. Two personal setbacks -- the death of his mother in October 2011 and a serious illness -- seem to have hardened him even further.

The prime minister is no longer the gifted politician who turned Turkey upside down 10 years ago. He is no longer the tactically clever Machiavellian he was when he was released from political imprisonment in 1999, who would first size up his opponents and then confidently put them in their place.

Time to Talk

Erdogan gave a remarkable speech to his party's parliamentary group last week. After having previously described the protesters as "scallywags" and "extremists," he now called them "traitors" and held "their partners abroad" responsible for the unrest. "We haven't heard a speech like that in a long time," says a journalist who reports on the parliament in Ankara. "It was the kind of speech we last heard in the days of the military dictatorship."

"He speaks like a dictator," says Veli Agbaba, a member of parliament for the Kemalist opposition party CHP. "He apparently views half of the Turkish people as his enemies. He is stirring up people against each other."

Lawmaker Altan Tan, a member of a pro-Kurdish opposition party, is also worried, even though Erdogan's AKP is the first governing party that has introduced a peace process with the Kurds and has negotiated a cease fire with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish separatist group PKK. There is currently no real separation of powers in Turkey, says Tan, because the heads of all major institutions -- the judiciary, the military, the police and the bureaucracy -- are members of the AKP. "Erdogan behaves no differently than the Kemalists, who view the state as their property."

It is difficult to discount Tan's diagnosis. Erdogan, who broke up the fossilized Turkish state, now rules with the methods of those who once persecuted him. He makes the same claim to sole representation with which the Kemalists prevented true democratization for decades.

For the demonstrators who were initially driven out of Gezi Park, it may be painful to realize that a large portion of Turkish society does not share their goals. But it will be even more painful for Erdogan to recognize that he needs more than parliamentary majorities to be a legitimate leader.

There will be no winners and losers in the struggle for Turkey's identity. The "black" and "white" Turks will ultimately have to speak with one another.

Editors Note: A Turkish-language version of this article is available in this week's SPIEGEL.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

***********

European Union agrees to new membership talks with Turkey

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 7:05 EDT

European Union ministers agreed Tuesday to reopen Turkey’s accession talks despite reticence from Germany and others over Ankara’s tough crackdown on protests.

Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said EU ministers had finally agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey after a three-year break.

In Ankara, the foreign ministry immediately welcomed the move.

European Affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg “agree to open Chapter 22″, an Irish spokeswoman said, referring to one of 35 sets of EU rules and regulations that candidates to membership of the bloc must satisfy before gaining entry to the European club.

The opening of negotiations on Chapter 22 had been expected Wednesday, but Berlin, backed by the governments of Austria and the Netherlands, had blocked the plan due to concerns over Ankara’s tough crackdown on protests in the last weeks.

Negotiations now are expected to kick off in the autumn, probably in October after the German elections.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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