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(DOCUMENT) How U.S. Almost Nuked North Carolina in 1961

In Archive, FOIA on September 22, 2013 at 9:41 AM

09/20/2013

Ed Pilkington/Guardian:

A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima.

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.

More…

Related Links:

National Security Archive Declassified Documents on U.S. Nuclear War Plans, Accidents, and Command Systems

Nuclear Weapons: An Accident Waiting to Happen

Eric Schlosser: “The People Who are Most Anti-Nuclear are the Ones Who Know Most About It”

Press Given Cybersecurity Executive Order Before SOTU, Agreed to Keep Quiet for 5 Hours

In Barack Obama, News, Other Leaks on February 12, 2013 at 10:13 PM

02/12/2013

Shortly before 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, the White House emailed reporters that President Obama had signed a highly anticipated Executive Order aimed at protecting cyber security.

The order — setting up new programs aimed at stopping online espionage and terrorism — was already the law of the land, signed by the president. But it was also secret.

The document was “embargoed until delivery of the President’s in the State of the Union address” — despite the fact it had already been signed.

Such embargoes — imposed unilaterally, rather than agreed-upon — are not binding on news organizations, which weigh the urgency of the news against the headache of, for instance, being dropped from the White House’s distribution list. BuzzFeed abided by the embargo, having participated in a background briefing on the move, but thought it appropriate to report on the unusual delay.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor explained in an email Administration’s decision to, temporarily, conceal the new order: “We wanted to release the EO early on an embargoed basis because the subject matter is complicated and we knew you guys would have questions. It seemed more helpful for the press corps than sending it concurrent with the speech.”

Vietor added “this isn’t unprecedented. Take for example sanctions Executive Orders. They are signed one day, go into effect at midnight but are not released until the next day.”

The new order appears, however, to have taken effect immediately; Vietor didn’t respond to a follow up question about when the order took effect.

Keeping White House executive orders secret is far from unprecedented, but usually concerns actual secrets. In 2002, the Bush White House signed a controversial executive order allowing for warrantless surveillance on those suspected of terrorism.

According to a White House synopsis the Executive Order includes:

New information sharing programs to provide both classified and unclassified threat and attack information to U.S. companies. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to produce unclassified reports of threats to U.S. companies and requires the reports to be shared in a timely manner. The Order also expands the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program, enabling near real time sharing of cyber threat information to assist participating critical infrastructure companies in their cyber protection efforts.

The development of a Cybersecurity Framework. The Executive Order directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to lead the development of a framework of cybersecurity practices to reduce cyber risks to critical infrastructure. NIST will work collaboratively with industry to develop the framework, relying on existing international standards, practices, and procedures that have proven to be effective. To enable technical innovation, the Cybersecurity Framework will provide guidance that is technology neutral and that enables critical infrastructure sectors to benefit from a competitive market for products and service

Includes strong privacy and civil liberties protections based on the Fair Information Practice Principles. Agencies are required to incorporate privacy and civil liberties safeguards in their activities under this order. Those safeguards will be based upon the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPS) and other applicable privacy and civil liberties policies, principles, and frameworks. Agencies will conduct regular assessments of privacy and civil liberties impacts of their activities and such assessments will be made public.

Establishes a voluntary program to promote the adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework. The Department of Homeland Security will work with Sector-Specific Agencies like the Department of Energy and the Sector Coordinating Councils that represent industry to develop a program to assist companies with implementing the Cybersecurity Framework and to identify incentives for adoption.

Calls for a review of existing cybersecurity regulation. Regulatory agencies will use the Cybersecurity Framework to assess their cybersecurity regulations, determine if existing requirements are sufficient, and whether any existing regulations can be eliminated as no longer effective. If the existing regulations are ineffective or insufficient, agencies will propose new, cost-effective regulations based upon the Cybersecurity Framework and in consultation with their regulated companies. Independent regulatory agencies are encouraged to leverage the Cybersecurity Framework to consider prioritized actions to mitigate cyber risks for critical infrastructure consistent with their authorities.

Via BuzzFeed

Related Link: Obama Signs Cybersecurity Executive Order Ahead of State of the Union

US Media Yet Again Conceals Newsworthy Government Secrets

In News, NWO, Other Leaks, Politics, Saudi Arabia, USA on February 7, 2013 at 1:17 PM

The Washington Post this week admitted it was part of an “informal arrangement” to conceal from its readers a US drone base in Saudi Arabia.

02/07/2013

The US media, over the last decade (at least), has repeatedly acted to conceal newsworthy information it obtains about the actions of the US government. In each instance, the self-proclaimed adversarial press corps conceals these facts at the behest of the US government, based on patently absurd claims that reporting them will harm US national security. In each instance, what this media concealment actually accomplishes is enabling the dissemination of significant government falsehoods without challenge, and permitting the continuation of government deceit and even illegality.

One of the most notorious examples was in mid-2004 when the New York Times discovered – thanks to a courageous DOJ whistleblower – that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law. But after George Bush summoned to the Oval Office the paper’s publisher (Arthur Sulzberger) and executive editor (Bill Keller) and directed them to conceal what they had learned, the NYT complied by sitting on the story for a-year-and-a-half: until late December, 2005, long after Bush had been safely re-elected. The “national security” excuse for this concealment was patently ludicrous from the start: everyone knew the US government was trying to eavesdrop on al-Qaida communications and this story merely revealed that they were doing so illegally (without warrants) rather than legally (with warrants). By concealing the story for so long, the New York Times helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans.

The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, in a superb act of journalism, reported in 2005 that the CIA was maintaining a network of secret “black sites” where detainees were interrogated and abused beyond the monitoring scrutiny of human rights groups and even Congress. But the Post purposely concealed the identity of the countries serving as the locale of those secret prisons in order to enable the plainly illegal program to continue without bothersome disruptions: “the Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior US officials.”

In 2011, the New York Times along with numerous other US media outlets learned that the American arrested in Pakistan for having shot and killed two Pakistanis, Raymond Davis, was not – as President Obama falsely claimed – “our diplomat”, but was a CIA agent and former Blackwater contractor. Not only did the NYT conceal this fact, but it repeatedly and uncritically printed claims from Obama and other officials about Davis’ status which it knew to be false. It was only once the Guardian published the facts about Davis – that he was a CIA agent – did the Times tell the truth to its readers, admitting that the disclosure “pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the CIA“.

The NYT, as usual, justified its concealment of this obviously newsworthy information as coming “at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk”. But as the Guardian’s Deputy Editor Ian Katz noted, “Davis [was] already widely assumed in Pakistan to have links to US intelligence” and “disclosing his CIA role would [therefore not] expose him to increased risk”.

And now, yet again, the US media has been caught working together to conceal obviously newsworthy government secrets. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that two years ago, the Obama administration established a base in Saudi Arabia from which it deploys drones to kill numerous people in Yemen. including US citizen Anwar Awlaki and, two weeks, later his 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman. The US base was built after the US launched a December, 2009 cruise missile/cluster-bomb attack that slaughtered dozens of Yemeni women and children.

But the Post admitted that it – along with multiple other US media outlets – had long known about the Saudi Arabia drone base but had acted in unison to conceal it from the US public:

“The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

“The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.”

The “other news organization” which the Post references is the New York Times. The NYT – in a very good article yesterday on the role played by CIA nominee John Brennan in US drones strikes in Yemen – reported that Brennan “work[ed] closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret CIA drone base there that is used for American strikes”. As the paper’s Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, explained, the NYT was one of the papers which “had withheld the location of that base at the request of the CIA”, but had decided now to report it. That was why the Post did so.

The existence of this drone base in Saudi Arabia is significantly newsworthy in multiple ways. The US drone program is drenched with extreme secrecy. The assassination of Awlaki is one of the most radical acts the US government has undertaken in the last decade at least. The intense cooperation between the US and the incomparably despotic Saudi regime is of vital significance. As Sullivan, the NYT’s Public Editor, put it in defending the NYT’s disclosure (and implicitly questioning the prior media conspiracy of silence):

“Given the government’s undue secrecy about the drone program, which it has never officially acknowledged the existence of, and that program’s great significance to America’s foreign policy, its national security, and its influence on the tumultuous Middle East, The Times ought to be reporting as much and as aggressively as possible on it.”

As usual, the excuses for concealing this information are frivolous. Indeed, as the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade noted, “the location of several drone bases was published as long ago as September last year on at least one news website, as this item on the North America Inter Press Service illustrates.” Gawker’s Adrian Chen documents numerous other instances where the base had been publicly disclosed and writes:

“In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren’t protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story. . . . The fact that the drone base was already reported renders the rationale behind the months-long blackout a farce.”

In an article on the controversy over this self-censorship, the Guardian this morning quotes Dr Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University:

“The decision not to publish is a shameful one. The national security standard has to be very high, perhaps imminent danger. The fact that we are even having a conversation about whether it was a national security issue should have sent alarm bells off to the editors. I think the real reason was that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis – and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven.”

The same dynamic drives most of these acts of US media self-censorship. It has nothing to do with legitimate claims of national security. Indeed, none of these facts – once they were finally reported – ultimately resulted in any harm. Instead, it has everything to do with obeying government dictates; shielding high-level government officials from embarrassing revelations; protecting even the most extreme government deceit and illegality; and keeping the domestic population of the US (their readers) ignorant of the vital acts in which their own government is engaged.

There are, of course, instances where newspapers can validly opt to conceal facts that they learn. That’s when the harm that comes from disclosure plainly outweighs the public interest in learning of them (the classic case is when, in a war, a newspaper learns of imminent troop movements: there is no value in reporting that but ample harm from doing so). But none of these instances comes close to meeting that test. Instead, media outlets overwhelmingly abide by government dictates as to what they should conceal. As Greensdale wrote: “most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations.”

As all of these examples demonstrate, extreme levels of subservience to US government authority is embedded in the ethos of the establishment American media. They see themselves not as watchdogs over the state but as loyal agents of it.

Recall the extraordinary 2009 BBC debate over WikiLeaks in which former NYT executive editor Bill Keller proudly praised himself for concealing information the Obama administration told him to conceal, prompting this incredulous reply from the BBC host: “Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the government in advance and say: ‘What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,’ and you get clearance, then?” Keller’s admission also prompted this response from former British diplomat Carne Ross, who was also on the program: “It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the US Government.”

After the Guardian published the truth about Raymond Davis, former Bush DOJ laywer Jack Goldsmith, in 2011, defended the New York Times’ concealment of it by hailing what he called “the patriotism of the American press“. He quoted former Bush CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden as saying that “American journalists display ‘a willingness to work with us’ . . . but with the foreign press ‘it’s very, very difficult'”. Goldsmith said that while foreign media outlets will more readily report on secret US government acts (he named The Guardian, Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks), US national security journalists with whom he spoke justified their eagerness to cooperate with the US government by “expressly ascrib[ing] this attitude to ‘patriotism’ or ‘jingoism’ or to being American citizens or working for American publications.”

That is the key truth. The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency’s vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama’s assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative “informal” agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.

Glenn Greenwald Via TheGuardian

Related Links:

An ‘Informal Arrangement’ to Not Report the News

Is This the Secret U.S. Drone Base in Saudi Arabia?

Google Faces UK Class Action Lawsuit Over Secret iPhone Tracking

In Big Brother, News, OpBigBrother, Other Leaks, Science & Technology, UK on January 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM

01/27/2013

Google is facing a fresh privacy battle in the UK over its alleged secret tracking of the internet habits of millions of iPhone users.

An estimated 10 million Britons could have grounds to launch a privacy claim over the way Google circumvented Apple’s security settings on the iPhone, iPad and desktop versions of its Safari web browser to monitor their behaviour.

At least 10 British iPhone users have started legal proceedings and dozens more are being lined up, according to Dan Tench, the lawyer behind the action at the London-based firm Olswang.

“This is the first time Google has been threatened with a group claim over privacy in the UK,” he said. “It is particularly concerning how Google circumvented security settings to snoop on its users. One of the things about Google is that it is so ubiquitous in our lives and if that’s its approach then it’s quite concerning.”

A letter before action has been sent to Google executives in the US and UK on behalf of two users, including Judith Vidal-Hall, the privacy campaigner and former editor of Index on Censorship. Another 10 are preparing to launch proceedings, and plans are afoot for a group to form an umbrella privacy action.

The legal action comes just months after Google was hit with a $22.5m (£14m) fine in the US over a privacy breach between summer 2011 and spring 2012.

Google has admitted it intentionally sidestepped security settings on Apple’s Safari web browser that blocked websites from tracking users through cookies – data stored on users’ computers that show which sites they have visited. Security researchers revealed last February that Google’s DoubleClick advertising network intentionally stored these cookies on users’ computers without their consent.

Although the legal bill for Google is likely to be small compared with last year’s profits of $10.7bn, the damage will be significant given the millions of iPhone users in Britain at the time. The exact figure for compensation is not known and will depend on a number of factors.

Alexander Hanff, a privacy campaigner working on the legal claims, said: “This group action is not about getting rich by suing Google, this lawsuit is about sending a very clear message to corporations that circumventing privacy controls will result in significant consequences. The lawsuit has the potential of costing Google tens of millions, perhaps even breaking £100m in damages given the potential number of claimants – making it the biggest group action ever launched in the UK.”

Lawyers for claimants in the UK have ordered Google to reveal how it used the private information it secretly obtained, how much personal data was taken, and for how long. It is understood the claimants are suing Google for breaches of confidence and breach of privacy, computer misuse and trespass, and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

News of the legal action was first reported by the Sunday Times. Vidal-Hall, who could not be reached by the Guardian, was quoted as saying Google was guilty of “electronic stalking”. She added: “It angers me that our data is either being sold or passed on to third parties.”

A Facebook group called Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking has vowed to hold Google to account for the tracking. It said: “Google deliberately undermined protections on the Safari browser so that they could track users’ internet usage and to provide personally tailored advertising based on the sites previously visited. There was no way to know that Google did this. In fact, they made it clear that they did not do this on the Safari browser.”

It continued: “It could mean for many users that surprises such as engagements, presents and holidays were destroyed when partners looked at their computers and saw display ads based on sites previously visited. There are many examples of the inappropriate consequences of such intrusion.”

Google is no stranger to damaging privacy battles, having being censured for snooping on Wi-Fi users with its StreetView cars and the failed launch of its email social network, Google Buzz.

Google declined to comment. A statement it released at the time of the $22.5m fine last July claimed it had “collected no personal information” with the cookies.

Via TheGuardian

Senator Requests Obama Admin. Provide Congress with Secret Legal Opinions on Targeted Assassinations of US Citizens

In News, NWO, Police State on January 15, 2013 at 8:36 AM

01/14/2013

A US senator has accused the Obama administration and the Justice Department for not being “adequately forthcoming” with information on the targeting and potential killing of Americans suspected of terrorism.

Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an open letter to John Brennan, the frontrunner for the post of Director of the CIA, asking Brennan to provide Congress with the secret legal opinions defining the government’s capacity to pursue and kill US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by law have access to classified legal opinions – but, Wyden writes, the Obama administration has denied him access to the opinions governing targeted assassinations of American citizens.

Wyden has tried for more than two years to gain access to the information, but has received either unsatisfactory responses or no response at all.

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