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Preparing the Battlefield The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran - Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources (The New Yorker)
VIDEO Security and Prosperity Partnership: Origins, Structures and Impacts Interview; Janet Eaton & Karen O'Donnell -- 29 min -- Apr 19, 2008 - In this interview Janet Eaton provides an overview of the origins, structures and impacts of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), a NAFTA - plus initiative within a 'security' fortress America framework which is being executed, beneath the radar screen of public, Parliamentary and Congressional scrutiny, by executive levels of government with advice from big business. Impacts discussed include human rights and civil liberties under attack on the 'security' side and downward regulatory harmonization, tar sands and energy implications, NAFTA super corridor impacts, the environment as loser under both NAFTA and the SPP, loss of jobs, and attempts to privatize Mexico's Pemex, among other things, on the so- called prosperity or trade side of the arrangement. (Global Research)
Going for the Gas Mexico's Battle Over Oil - On April 8, President Felipe Calderon dropped a political bomb on the Mexican political scene. The Senate received an executive initiative that would fundamentally change the structure and operations of the oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Key operations of the state-owned enterprise would be taken over by private companies.
In the reform proposal, Calderon and his National Action Party (PAN) took care to avoid calling for modifying the Mexican Constitution. National ownership of petroleum is a touchstone of nationalist pride in Mexico since President Lazaro Cardenas expropriated private companies on March 18, 1938. At that time, citizens fed up with the arrogance and voracity of foreign oil companies supported the expropriation by donating everything from live chickens to family jewels to pay compensation and regain control of the resource. The Mexican Constitution is very clear about who owns Mexican oil: "The nation has direct dominion over all national resources of the continental platform ... (including) petroleum and all solid, liquid, or gaseous hydrocarbons ..."
The president announced the "energy reform initiative" as an administrative packet to save Pemex from a deep financial and operational crisis. To these neoliberal administrators, the only way out of this crisis is to turn to the private sector. According to the Calderon government, Mexican citizens and politicians must now acknowledge that Mexican administrators are incapable of rising to the lucrative challenge at hand, Mexican scientists can't provide the needed technology, and Mexican consumers prefer public services in foreign hands.
That line will be a hard sell, given the history of the oil industry in Mexico and current trends in Latin America. (Counter Punch)
What’s Up with the Secret Cybersecurity Plans, Senators Ask DHS The government’s new cyber-security "Manhattan Project" is so secretive that a key Senate oversight panel has been reduced to writing a letter to beg for answers to the most basic questions, such as what’s going on, what’s the point and what about privacy laws.
The Senate Homeland Security committee wants to know, for example, what is the goal of Homeland Security’s new National Cyber Security Center. They also want to know why it is that in March, DHS announced that Silicon Valley evangelist and security novice Rod Beckstrom would direct the center, when up to that point DHS said the mere existence of the center was classified.
Those are just two sub-questions out of a list of 17 multi-part questions centrist Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent to DHS in a letter Friday. (Wired)
White House Plans Proactive Cyber-Security Role for Spy Agencies America's spy agencies for the first time would be tasked with gathering intelligence on threats to the nation's computer networks under a policy that could be detailed by the White House as early as next week, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
Speaking at a security conference in Washington, the official said the Bush administration wants to harness the intelligence community's offensive capabilities in defense of government and civilian computer systems.
"We've never looked at how all the unique things this government wages against others could be used to inform our defensive posture," said the official, who asked not to be named because the White House has not yet released details about the plan. "We really need to move from [the reality that] the advantage is always with the attacker to how we can have our offense better inform our defense to shrink that gap."
In January, President Bush signed a directive authorizing the intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, to monitor all federal network traffic to prevent attackers from breaking in and from stealing sensitive data or disrupting critical systems. (Washington Post)
Cyberwarfare: Darpa's New 'Space Race' The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, was created 50 years ago, in response to the Soviets’ launch of Sputnik. In less than a year, Darpa put together the infrastructure that guided the American space effort for decades to come. Now, Darpa has been given new marching orders: to help America fight and win battles online.
Under a directive signed by the President — and OK’d by Congress — nearly every arm of the government’s security apparatus is starting work on a massive national cybersecurity initiative, designed to protect the United States from electronic attack (and strike at adversaries online, as well). Darpa’s role: Create a cyberwarfare range where all these new forms of electronic combat can be tried out. According to a defense official familiar with the program: "Congress has given DARPA a direct order; that’s only happened once before — with the Sputnik program in the ’50s." (Wired)
Trade the talk of summit, but controversy looms: Bush meets with North American leaders this week in New Orleans With free trade issues looming large in the race to replace him, President Bush this week convenes his final North American Leaders' Summit, focusing on trade, economic and security issues with counterparts from Mexico and Canada.
Bush is hosting Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in New Orleans for a two-day conference starting today. It is the fourth annual meeting of a summit that first convened in 2005 in Waco.
"We'd like to enhance and strengthen an already dynamic and strong relationship, to deepen the cooperation by building on the common interests of our citizens," said Dan Fisk, senior director of Western Hemisphere Affairs for the National Security Council. "The North American relationship works; we believe it works well for all three countries, but we also believe we can make it work better." (Houston Chronicle)
Montebello summit police face ethics complaint: Head of CEP union alleges officers disguised as protestors violated ethics code A union leader has filed a complaint with the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner regarding the conduct of police officers disguised as protesters at last summer's North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que.
Dave Coles, head of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, took part in the demonstration in August where three Sûreté du Québec officers dressed in black clothing and with bandanas over their faces were filmed carrying a rock and pushing through a line of riot police despite protesters' attempts to stop them.
At a news conference Tuesday, Coles said he hopes the complaint he filed Friday will achieve two goals.
"One is that we get to the bottom of who sent them in and why. Why were police sent in to disrupt a legitimate protest? I think Canadians need to know that. It's an affront against democracy," he said. (CBC)
U.S. Has Launched a Cyber Security 'Manhattan Project,' Homeland Security Chief Claims The federal government has launched a cyber security "Manhattan Project," U.S. homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday, because online attacks can be a form of "devastating warfare", and equivalent in damage to "physical destruction of the worst kind."
Speaking to hundreds of security professionals at the RSA security conference, Chertoff cited last year’s denial-of-service attacks against Estonia, and hypothetical hack attacks on financial networks and air traffic control systems, as proof that a federal strategy was needed.
"Imagine, if you will, a sophisticated attack on our financial systems that caused them to be paralyzed," Chertoff said. "It would shake the foundation of trust on which our financial system works."
That digital mushroom cloud scenario means the government’s role in computer security must extend beyond federal networks, and reach to shared responsibility for financial, telecommunication and transportation infrastructure, Chertoff said. "The failure of any single system has cascading effects across our country," Chertoff said. (Wired)
Democrats are darlings of Wall St: Some fear donations will soften attitudes on financial regulation Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, who are running for president as economic populists, are benefiting handsomely from Wall Street donations, easily surpassing Republican John McCain in campaign contributions from the troubled financial services sector.
It is part of a broader fundraising shift toward Democrats, compared to past campaigns when Republicans were the favorites of Wall Street.
Some Democrats worry that the influx of money will make their candidates less willing to call for increased regulation of financial markets, which have been in turmoil after a wave of foreclosures on sub-prime mortgages.
These concerned Democrats argue that their candidates, and presumptive Republican nominee McCain, should be willing to push for financial institutions to accept more government regulation -- in exchange for likely future bailouts, such as the recent deal the Federal Reserve orchestrated for JPMorgan Chase & Co. to take over Bear Stearns Cos. (Los Angeles Times)
Report: NSA’s Warrantless Spying Resurrects Banned ‘Total Information Awareness’ Project Total Information Awareness — the all-seeing terrorist spotting algorithm-meets-the-mother-of-all-databases that was ostensibly de-funded by Congress in 2003, never actually died, and was largely rebuilt in secret by the NSA, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman.
In a fantastic story Monday, Gorman pulls together threads and lays out what many have suspected and alleged in lawsuits — the NSA is collecting and sifting through immense amounts of data about who Americans talk to, what they are interested in, how they spend their money and where they travel in order to find secret terrorism cells inside America.
The NSA is engaged in a widespread mining of so-called transactional data — domestic telephone records, credit card purchases, travel data, international financial data, internet searches, subject lines and headers of emails — pulling in immense data about Americans and foreigners, which it then uses to find particular targets — or even, according to Gorman — to decide what cities to target for blanket surveillance. (Wired)
Concentration Camps in America If you type the phrase “concentration camps” into your Internet search engine, you will find page after page of references to martial law and the construction of concentration camps in the United States on behalf of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A close examination reveals that many of these references lack sufficient facts to support their conclusions; however, taken as a whole, there is an abundance of factual information showing an alarming trend in the deployment of federal and military forces to restrain and detain American citizens.
Among the Internet sites are those listing between 600 and 800 locations in the United States where the government is establishing “concentration camps.” Many of these are former or active military bases; however, several provide detailed information about their location and improvements, including maps, videos, and satellite photographs... (William John Cox)
Russia Threatens Nuke Strike Top-ranking Russian military figure Says America had better watch out - Recent statements coming from one of Russia’s highest-ranking military commanders indicate that America and Israel plan to go ahead with war on Iran despite the release of the National Intelligence Estimate late last year. Russia’s military chief of staff General Yuri Baluyevsky threatened the use of nuclear weapons in case of a major threat. He said that, although they have no plans of attacking anyone, they nevertheless "consider it necessary for everyone around the world community to clearly understand, that to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia and its allies, military forces will be used, including, preventively, the use of nuclear weapons." (American Free Press)
Al-Qaida Web site was hosted in Phoenix A Web site used by al-Qaida to recruit car bombers, encourage war on the West and provide a forum for Islamic militants went online from Phoenix this week.
The site, a well-known and popular forum for Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers, was the first to report the death of senior al-Qaida leader Abu Laith al-Libi in Pakistan this week.
The north Phoenix company hosting the site took it down Wednesday, just hours after being contacted by The Arizona Republic.
The Web site, www.ek-is.org, facilitates discussions on weapons, explosives and propaganda and often serves as a question-and-answer center for terrorists, a review of the Web site shows.
Bob Cichon, president of Phoenix-based CrystalTech Web Hosting Inc., said he was unaware of the site's content when his company posted it earlier this week. He said his company, which hosts thousands of Web sites, has no association with extremists or terrorists.
(The Arizona Republic)
9/11 Commission controversy The analysis shows that much of what was reported about the planning and execution of the terror attacks on New York and Washington was derived from the interrogations of high-ranking al-Qaida operatives. Each had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques." (MSNBC)
U.S. Warns Iran Against 'Provocative Actions' Following Incident in Strait of Hormuz The United States issued a stern warning to Iran Monday following an incident near the Strait of Hormuz in which Iranian speedboats veered dangerously close to three U.S. Navy ships and intercepted radio signals said U.S. "ships would explode."
U.S. ships blew whistles, issued radio warnings and took evasive maneuvers to avoid striking the Iranian boats, which motored as close as 200 yards from the American ships by one account. The naval ships armed their weapons, and the five unmarked Iranian boats — believed to belong to the Iran Revolutionary Guard — sped away.
The incident lasted less than 30 minutes, Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff, commander of the the 5th fleet, told reporters Monday. (FOX)
Stonewalled by the C.I.A. The goal was to provide the American people with the fullest possible account of the “facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” - and to offer recommendations to prevent future attacks (New York Times)
NAFTA Superhighway Mid Continental Corridor is under way The American Presidential candidates are discussing the existence of what is contained in the Manitoba Speech from the Throne and the Albertan North American Trade Corridors map. Americans concerned about their country losing sovereignty in a North American Union are circulating YouTubes contrasting the reality of the Speech, and Map, to the words of those denying the Superhighways' existence.
Though our political system differs, Canadians will do well to watch the influence of these contributions from Canada as Americans select their next president. Will the person selected be following the denial policy of President Bush or charting a different course? (The Canadian)
Katrina Update: Poor People Lose Again When Hurricane Katrina hit, poor people in Louisiana and Mississippi bore the brunt of it — they lived in the most vulnerable areas and structures, and they were in the worst position to escape the storm and deal with the aftermath.
When Congress voted relief money, it specified that half of it was to go to help low-income victims.
Guess what? As Leslie Eaton reports in today’s Times, Mississippi has spent $1.7 billion in federal grant money, and most of that has gone to programs that have benefited big businesses and well-off individuals.
Only $167 million, or about 10 percent, so far has gone on programs dedicated to the poor. It’s a scandal, or it should be. (New York Times)
Prime Minister Harper officially endorses North American Union with Council of Foreign Relations visit Prime Minister Stephen Harper's appearance at the New York City based Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) on 25 September 2007, was an official endorsement and expression of solidarity on the North American Union agenda. Harvard University educated CNN Veteran anchor Lou Dobbs, has further confirmed the official endorsement of the Stephen Harper Minority Conservative government on North American Union, or "New America".
Mr. Harper has been apparently directed by the principal funders of the Conservative Party of Canada, which are ideologically linked to the CFR, to assimilate Canada into a new "Fortress North America" which is controlled by the U.S. political-military-industrial complex by no later than 2010.
Indeed, the Stephen Harper government has been reported to be in the process of getting various Canadian government departments and agencies to "harmonize", with U.S. governmental agencies, to expedite the assimilation of Canada into the neo-conservative vision of a "Fortress North America". (The Canadian)
N American trade, security meet wraps up North American leaders wrapped up a two-day summit here on Tuesday, trumpeting consumer protections and other joint efforts, while dismissing charges of plotting to erode national sovereignty.
The trilateral talks were "as cordial as they were constructive," said host Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, flanked by US President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a closing press conference.
Canada, the US and Mexico are "independent and interdependent," Harper said. "And we're committed to working together on mutual security, continued economic growth and expanding our unique North American relationship."
The partnership was launched at the first "Three Amigos" summit in Waco, Texas, in March 2005, but has been attacked by activists, labor groups and academics critical of its business focus. (Taipei Times)
North American Leaders Conclude Talks About "NAFTA On Crack" A summit of North American leaders has concluded in Montebello Quebec. On Tuesday President Bush praised NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
* President Bush: "And I think we made some good progress towards eliminating barriers and to harmonizing regulations to a point where more prosperity will come to be."
President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met in Montebellow to discuss an expanded version of NAFTA known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Canadian activist Jaggi Singh said "The Security and Prosperity Partnership is, in brief, NAFTA on crack combined with the fear and paranoia of Homeland Security policies." The three leaders also discussed border issues.
* Mexican President Felipe Calderon: "We all want secure borders. We all also want efficient borders, borders that will allow a border crossing of those who build, who contribute and of course prevent border crossings of those who damage our societies, organized crime, drug trafficking and and illegal markets."
In other news from the Canadian summit, protesters are accusing police of using undercover agents to provoke violent confrontations during the meeting. (Democracy Now)
The FBI's New Power The Authority to Abuse the Constitution - On August 4, ignoring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who had spoken of Bush's "phony war" on terrorism, Congress authorized vast authority for repressive agencies to spy further on the public. Under the pretext of "fighting terror," the bill opens further already existing wide parameters for telephone and email intrusion without court warrants. (Global Research)
Analysis: Border issue to dominate summit Business leaders from the United States and Canada hope the North American summit in Montebello, Quebec, this week will put efforts to integrate the two nation’s border control systems back on track.
“The issue” of talks about a pilot project for a single frontier checkpoint where both U.S. and Canadian entry and exit formalities can be completed “will be part of the conversation,” Steven Nesmith, a former U.S. Commerce Department official now working as a lobbyist on border issues, told United Press International. He said the information came from U.S. officials involved in preparations for the summit.
A Canadian official, Susan Cartwright, confirmed to reporters at a pre-summit briefing last week that the pilot -- called the land pre-clearance project -- was one of several border issues that “would likely be discussed” at the bilateral meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President George W. Bush Monday.
The breakdown last April of talks about the pilot, mooted for the Peace Bridge -- which joins Fort Erie in Canada and Buffalo in New York state and is one of the busiest border crossings in the world -- has become something of a lightning rod for critics of the Department of Homeland Security, which pulled the United States out of negotiations on the issue after almost three years of talks. - Christopher Sands, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, said that the “very aggressive” U.S. attitude to security was also evident in the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership -- the trilateral process of keeping “our borders closed to terrorism yet open to trade,” according to its Web site.
“The security part is a little different (from the prosperity agenda), it’s very U.S.-driven,” he said. “It’s basically just a matter of the U.S. setting the standards and then getting the Canadians and the Mexicans to sign up.”
“That’s why they feel a little pushed,” he added, of Canada and Mexico. (United Press International)
In Depth Security and Prosperity Partnership: SPP FAQs To hear some people talk, the Security and Prosperity Partnership meetings are nothing to get worked up about.
Thomas D'Aquino, of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has said the issues discussed at the SPP are "quite important but frankly quite boring. They're not terribly exciting."
David Bohigian, the American assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance, told the magazine The Nation that the SPP is mostly concerned with bureaucratic minutiae and standards harmonization.
"For instance, in the U.S., we sell baby food in several different sizes; in Canada, it's just two different sizes," he told the magazine.
But if it's all boring bureaucracy and baby food jars, why are thousands of protestors expected to show up in Montebello, Que., a small town halfway between Ottawa and Montreal, for the third leaders' meeting under the SPP? - Who is opposed to the SPP?
Opposition to the SPP exists in all three countries and on either end of the political spectrum.
Progressive groups, particularly in Canada, say the SPP amounts to Canada's deep integration with the United States.
The Council of Canadians says the SPP is anti-democratic, makes Canadians less secure and ties Canada to the U.S. "war on terror." The Council is also concerned about the SPP discussions about bulk water exports from Canada to the U.S.
The NDP has said it has concerns about the SPP's "lack of transparency and democratic oversight." NDP trade critic Peter Julian has tabled a motion calling for public consultations and full Parliamentary oversight of the SPP.
- On the Canadian government's website about the SPP, some of the agreement's accomplishments are listed:
* Initiatives that make it easier to ship goods across the border.
* Strategies to limit the impact of disasters and allow for a more co-ordinated international response and a faster recovery.
* International co-operation on intelligence, law enforcement, transportation security and border management to help reduce criminal activity and terror risks.
* Reduction of transit times by 50 per cent at the Detroit-Windsor gateway, the largest border crossing point between Canada and the U.S.
Not listed is a planned "harmonization" of pesticide limits between Canada and the U.S., which would raise the acceptable level of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables.
The SPP's 2006 prosperity report identified "differences in pesticide maximum residue limits" as "barriers to trade." (CBC)
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