Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The inside story of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

It's the biggest intelligence breach in U.S. history -- the leaking of more than a half million classified documents on the WikiLeaks website throughout 2010. At the center of the controversy stands Bradley E. Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who's charged with handing them over.

Who is Bradley Manning, and what does his story tell us about how and why the secret cache of documents may have been leaked? In WikiSecrets, FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith gains exclusive access to those closest to Manning -- including his father, close friends and his Army bunkmate -- and uncovers video of Manning taken around the time of the alleged handover of classified information. Read more »

Video: Roommates of Anthony's boyfriend testify

IAEA: Syria Probably Tried To Build Nuclear Plant

The IAEA report adds to evidence suggesting that Syria was building a plutonium reactor at this site in Dair Alzour when Israel bombed it in September 2007. (AFP/Getty Images / May 24, 2011)

Watchdog Says Syria Likely Built Nuclear Site -- Wall Street Journal

The International Atomic Energy Agency formally informed its Board of Governors Tuesday that despite Syrian denials, Syria very likely secretly built a nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour in violation of Syria's international treaty obligations.

Diplomats from two Western countries say the IAEA finding will lead to increased diplomatic pressure on Syria when IAEA Board of Governors at its next meeting in early June debates proposals for a resolution that would refer the agency's findings to the United Nations Security Council.

Read more ....

Mubarak to face trial for killing of protesters

The New York Times reports:
Former President Hosni Mubarak will be put on trial for conspiring to kill unarmed protesters, Egypt’s top prosecutor announced Tuesday, yielding to public demands for accountability and setting an example that could rattle autocrats around the region.
The charge could incur the death penalty. Mr. Mubarak was also accused of obtaining his seaside mansion in Sharm el Sheik as a kickback from a friend for a corrupt land deal, and prosecutors accused his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, of receiving a total of four other villas there as part of the same kickback. And in a third charge, prosecutors said the former president allowed the same friend to siphon $714 million in public money out of a deal to sell natural gas to Israel.
The charges — brought by prosecutors Mr. Mubarak had appointed — included hints that former subordinates might testify against him, as onetime allies and government insiders turn on one another.
A Cairo criminal court is expected to set a trial date within days, and the Egyptian people could soon see the leader whose iron fist ruled them for nearly three decades seated in the steel cage that serves as a docket in Egyptian courtrooms.

Thousands flee violence in Sudan: UN

KHARTOUM (Reuters): More than 15,000 people have fled Sudan’s Abyei region to the south after the northern army seized the disputed area and parts of the main town were burned and looted, United Nations officials said Tuesday.A senior southern minister in the Khartoum government resigned, protesting against what he called war crimes committed by the northern army which had moved tanks into the main regional town over the weekend after weeks of tensions.Analysts fear north-south fighting over Abyei could reignite a full-blown conflict in Africa’s largest country, a move that could have a devastating impact on the surrounding region.Southerners voted in January for independence in a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal but Abyei remains the most contentious point in the build-up to secession on July 9.Khartoum has defied calls by the UN Security Council and world powers to withdraw its forces from Abyei, which has oil and fertile grazing land.UN officials said between 15,000 and 20,000 people fled Abyei and arrived in or around Agok, a town just across the southern border.”The situation is very volatile and fluid,” said Elizabeth Byrs of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Lakers to hire middle school assistant coach?

Kobe Bryant’s new head coaches most recent gig was coaching 13-year-olds. Mike Brown, expected to replace Phil Jackson as coach of the Lakers, had been “working” as an assistant coach for the Westlake Lee Burneson Middle School team that his son Cameron, plays on in Ohio, according to YAHOO SPORTS. The former Cavs coach isn’t very “Hollywood,” but that could work well in the land of make believe. Brown will get a 3-year deal worth $12 million, according to the LA Times.

Justice Dept. Not Budging: Won’t Pay for $750,000 Car FBI Agent Smashed

Latest model of Ferrari F50
By Allan Lengel
DETROIT -- A Michigan insurance company insists it’s still not getting justice from the Justice Department.

The Associated Press reports that the Justice Department is still refusing to pay $750,000 to a Michigan insurance company for a stolen Ferrari F50 that was recovered, but then was wrecked while being driven by an FBI agent in Kentucky. The Justice Department has refused to release many documents to the insurance company about the incident involving the car that was stolen from a dealership in Rosemont, Pa.
A hearing on the matter is set for June 13 in Detroit.

The Justice Department claimed in a lawsuit filed by the Southfield, Mi. insurance company, Motors Insurance,  that it was immune to tort claims when law enforcement possesses certain goods, AP reported.

The rare car was stolen in 2003 and recovered five years later in Kentucky, AP reported. It became evidence in an ongoing probe.

In May 2009, FBI agent Fred Kingston was moving the car when he lost control and crashed into a curb.

Let the Show BEGIN! Blago Expected to Testify at His Retrial

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice
By Allan Lengel
Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was once known for his political prowess. But in the past 18 months or so he’s been known more for being an entertaining sort.

He’s appeared on Letterman. And the Daily Show. And he did a commercial promoting pistachios. And he went on The Celebrity Apprentice with The Donald.

Now brace yourself for more entertainment.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Blago plans to testify in his own defense at his corruption retrial. The paper cites “several sources familiar with the former governor’s decision.”

“Blagojevich has been preparing to take the witness stand for several days and worked in depth on his possible testimony over the weekend, sources said. It was unclear how soon he could be called to testify, but the defense is scheduled to begin presenting evidence Wednesday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse,” the Trib reported.

Too bad cameras aren’t allowed in the federal courtroom in downtown Chicago. This may well be his best performance.

Blago passed on testifying in his first trial, which for the most part, was a major embarrassment for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Blago was convicted on only 1 of 24 counts — lying to an FBI agent.

Gates at AEI: Strategy Must Drive Budget Decisions

May 24, 2011, 2:27 pm
In a wonky speech at the American Enterprise Institute this afternoon, departing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reflected on his institutional decisions at the Pentagon and considered issues that his successor must confront. Beyond recapitalizing certain programs and addressing the Pentagon’s overhead costs, Gates argued that the team conducting the comprehensive review must be prepared to consider the strategic cost of further budget cuts. Gates noted that, though efficiencies remain to be found, they will not alone bring the Pentagon’s budget in line with President Obama’s proposed $400 billion reduction: in short, real capabilities must be cut. Gates advocated a clear-eyed approach to budgetary decisions and their effect on American missions:

We need to be honest with the president, with the Congress, with the American people, indeed with ourselves, about what those consequences (of additional defense budget reductions) are:  That a smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.

Building on this point, the Secretary indicated that the ends should define the means in the defense budget. The comprehensive defense review must take stock of the big picture:

The tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the American people – accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades – want their country to play in the world.
In closing, the outgoing Secretary waxed eloquent on America’s place in the international order:

America does have a special position and set of responsibilities on this planet.  I share Winston Churchill’s belief that “the price of greatness is responsibility…[and] the people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility.”  This status provides enormous benefits – for allies, partners, and others abroad to be sure, but in the final analysis the greatest beneficiaries are the American people, in terms of our security, our prosperity, our freedom.

I know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war.  But there is no doubt in my mind that the continued strength and global reach of the American military will remain the greatest deterrent against aggression, and the most effective means of preserving peace in the 21st century, as it was in the 20th.
Watch the video here. Full text of Gates’ address after the jump…

Measuring politics by standing ovation: Netanyahu addresses Congress and pushes the same old right-wing agenda

Honestly, how does it matter that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu got 29 standing ovations, four more than President Obama got during his 2011 SOTU address?

Are we measuring political popularity by standing ovation?

And does this really indicate anything other than that the generally right-wing pro-Israeli lobby is immensely influential and that weak-kneed Sens. and Reps. will kowtow to Likudnik demands for fear of appearing to oppose that lobby?

And that Netanyahu is a powerful orator?

(As Think Progress notes, he got a standing ovation for saying that Israel doesn't occupy the West Bank. In other words, he got a standing ovation for telling a massive lie. And all those standing and applauding didn't seem to have a clue. Indeed, they only brought shame on themselves for doing so.)


Because, otherwise, all Netanyahu espoused was the same old hard-line position -- a domineering Israel that refuses to make concessions -- that has done nothing to secure anything even resembling a lasting, sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sure, Israel will be "generous on the size of the Palestinian state," but the devil, as they say, is in the details -- and it's all about "where we put the border." And Netanyahu stressed that Israel will not, if he has his way, go back to its pre-1967 borders, even though Obama, breaking somewhat from previous U.S. policy, stated in his Middle East speech other day that those borders would only be a starting point for negotiations.

That isn't nearly good enough for Netanyahu and the Likud and their mostly right-wing American allies, of course, even though that would certainly be a good starting point that could ultimately lead to an acceptable compromise.

Because, of course, they only want peace on their terms.

Now, I'm generally pro-Israel myself, but I'm not certainly not pro-Netanyahu's Israel, and certainly not for the sort of peace they want. I used to think that it might just take a conservative like Netanyahu to make the necessary concessions to secure peace, but it's been clear for a long time that Israeli conservatives want no such thing and that there will never be a genuine peace agreement as long as they're in power.

It doesn't matter how many standing ovations Netanyahu gets. He's a bully, not to mention a liar, and Israel under his leadership is itself a bully -- a bully with a military that seeks to advance its interests through force.

President Obama knows better. Obviously, Congress does not.

Kyle Busch on Speeding Bust -- 'I Got Carried Away'

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch doesn’t take crap from anyone on the track, and apparently he sometimes feels like he doesn’t have to answer to anyone off of it. How else can you explain the report saying he was cited Tuesday for driving 128 MPH in a 45 zone????

According to the Statesville Record & Landmark, “Iredell County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Stone, a member of the Aggressive Criminal Enforcement (ACE) team, stopped a yellow sports car after he clocked it doing 128 mph in a 45 mph zone on Perth Road near Judas Road, between Troutman and Mooresville,” Tuesday in North Carolina.

Busch was cited for reckless and careless driving, and his actions make Jason Richardson look tame. My only question for you is this: if the man drives cars over 200 miles per hour for a living, is doing 128 on the streets really reckless or careless? Think about it. Oh, and by the way, was there any doubt his car would be yellow? I bet it comes with a peanut M&Ms dispenser built into the glove compartment box.
Shake and bake, Twackle

By Larry Brown

John Edwards Faces Indictment For Using Campaign Funds To Cover-Up Love Child

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prosecutors can seek an indictment against former North Carolina Senator and two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for allegedly using campaign donations to cover up an extra-marital affair and love child, ABC News reported late Tuesday.

The network, citing sources, said the Department of Justice has given the go-ahead for Edwards to be prosecuted and the former politician has been informed of the development.
Edwards may now accept a plea deal or face trial.

Edwards, 57, has been the target of a lengthy federal grand jury investigation into allegations of campaign violations related to his relationship with mistress Rielle Hunter.

As Edwards made his second run for the White House, he began an affair with Hunter — an aide who worked as a videographer on his campaign — that was uncovered by the National Enquirer in late 2007.
Edwards finally admitted to the affair in August 2008, having initially denied that he was the father of Hunter’s daughter Frances Quinn Hunter, who was born in February 2008.

The allegations in the federal investigation concern more than $1 million that was used to hide Hunter from public view.

The amount was paid by two big-time donors — 100-year-old heiress and philanthropist Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Edwards’ 2008 finance chairman Fred Baron, who died in 2008.

Prior to his death, Baron admitted that he had paid money to help hide Hunter from the press, but denied that Edwards had any knowledge of the arrangement.

Former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young — who lived with Hunter while she was in hiding, initially claimed to be the father of the baby girl as a favor to Edwards, and has since written a tell-all book about the campaign — has said that Edwards definitely knew about the money, and even solicited it.

A prominent trial lawyer before being elected to his North Carolina Senate seat in 1998, Edwards came second in the 2004 Democratic primary race and was then selected by the eventual nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), to be his vice presidential running-mate.

Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth Edwards, died late last year after a battle with cancer.

Posted By Pat Dollard