Arms, Conflict, Corruption, Hillary Clinton, Law, Middle East, Military, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Scandal, Security, USA

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds hands with her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Reuters / Jim Young)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds hands with her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Reuters / Jim Young)

As the Obama administration increased military weapons exports, Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved transfer of more than $300 billion worth of arms manufactured by US defense contractors to 20 nations that were or have since become donors of the Clinton Foundation, a major philanthropic organization run by the Clinton family. According to a review of available records of foundation donors by the International Business Times, those countries included governments that have received frequent criticism by the State Department for repressive policies.

“Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents,” IBT wrote.

‘Clinton is epitome of financial corruption’ – David Swanson

David Swanson is an author and long time political activist who is so passionate about restoring the constitutional role of the President that he actually wrote an entire book on it, “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” and leads to this day the campaign to impeach Bush and Cheney. Mr. Swanson is not just unhappy with bad Republican behavior in the White House and we will get his views on Hillary Clinton’s decision to run for the presidency.

Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar were nations that directly donated to the Clinton Foundation during Clinton’s term as secretary of state, even as they were requesting weapons shipments. The donated money represents a loophole in US law regarding political contributions.

“Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions — a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy,” IBT noted. “But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.”

The reviewed sales — both commercial and Pentagon-brokered — represent those made during “three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as secretary of state (from October 2010 to September 2012),” IBT reported. The deals made with the nations in question during this time add up to far more than arms agreements made with the same countries during the last three full fiscal years of George W. Bush’s administration, according to the report.

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, told IBT. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

The Clinton Foundation’s donor list has come under closer examination since Hillary Clinton announced she is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. In April, the Clintons acknowledged they have made “mistakes” regarding transparency amid increased public scrutiny concerning donations from foreign entities, especially when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, from 2009 to 2013.

Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton defended his family foundation’s donors.

“I don’t think there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people in countries that are seriously involved in development to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up,” Mr. Clinton told NBC News.

The Clinton Foundation signed a foreign donor disclosure agreement just before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, yet neither the department nor the White House raised issues with potential conflicts of interest regarding the weapons agreements.

IBT reported that in 1995 President Clinton signed a presidential policy directive demanding the State Department take into account human rights abuses when considering the approval of military equipment or arms purchases from US companies. Yet Mrs Clinton’s State Department ignored this stipulation, helping the Obama administration increase weapons transfers.

The State Department, under the aegis of Clinton, hammered the Algerian government in its 2010 Human Rights Report for “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association,” allowing “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.”

“That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Department officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Clinton’s State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country,” IBT reported. “The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as ‘toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment’ after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year.

“During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department authorized at least $2.4 billion of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria — nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year — a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.”

IBT also reported that major US weapons manufacturers and financial corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Goldman Sachs paid Bill Clinton lucrative speaking fees “reaching $625,000” just as arms deals they had an interest in were in the works with Mrs Clinton’s State Department.

Read more
Hillary Clinton: What to know about her recent controversies, scandals

Hillary Clinton had pledged during her Senate confirmation hearings in 2009 that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

US weapons sales tripled in 2011 to a new yearly high of $66.3 billion, according to the New York Times, mostly driven by sales to Persian Gulf nations allied against Iran. This dollar total made up nearly 78 percent of all worldwide arms deals that year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Reuters reported in January 2013 that the State Department office that has oversight of direct commercial arms sales “was on track to receive more than 85,000 license requests in 2012, a new record.”

The boom in arms sales by the Obama administration has continued to the present day, as Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are using American-made fighter jets against Islamic State and for proxy wars in places like Yemen and Syria.

According to the Times, foreign weapons sales now represent 25 percent to 30 percent of revenue taken in by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US-based arms dealers.

​Clinton Foundation admits ‘mistakes’ amid concerns of foreign donors 20

German Foreign Ministry plays down intel report claiming Ukraine militia downed MH17

A picture taken on November 7, 2014, shows parts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk. (AFP Photo/Dimitar Dilkoff)

A picture taken on November 7, 2014, shows parts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk. (AFP Photo/Dimitar Dilkoff)

The German Foreign Ministry maintains the media interpretation of an October statement by the president of national intelligence agency alleging self-defense militia downed MH17 flight in Ukraine was incomplete and taken out of context.

The Russian embassy in Berlin received an official response to note #3693 from October 27 regarding Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND intelligence agency) President Gerhard Schindler’s allegations that local militia in eastern Ukraine shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight in July.

“The media interpretation of the report of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) president delivered to the Bundestag Committee overseeing intelligence activities on October 8 is incomplete and arbitrarily taken out of context,” the note says.

Gerhard Schindler, President of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) (AFP Photo)

Gerhard Schindler, President of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) (AFP Photo)

German diplomats insisted that the BND’s analysis and evaluation was based “on information obtained from intelligence and from open sources,” which included data from the interim report of the Dutch investigation commission conducting the inquiry. The report delivered by Schindler “evaluated multiple valid scenarios with regard to their plausibility and probability,” the note said.

The ministry stressed that according to the decision of the International Civil Aviation Association (ICAA), investigation of the MH17 flight crash was handed over to Dutch authorities, authorized to exclusively deliver all information on the issue.

According to information made public by Germany’s Der Spiegel daily on October 19, Schindler delivered a statement in Bundestag on October 8 in which he claimed the militia in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region fired a rocket from a BUK defense missile system which it had captured from a Ukrainian base. It shot down the Malaysian Boeing as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers and crew aboard.

Putin accuses Ukrainian troops of shelling MH17 crash site

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met on Monday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of an APEC summit in China, has also spoken on the issue of flight MH17.

Having expressed condolences to the families of the perished passengers and Malaysian state, Vladimir Putin confirmed that Moscow insists on a complete and objective international investigation of the MH17 catastrophe in accordance with the corresponding UN resolution.

A picture taken on November 10, 2014, shows parts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80 kms east of Donetsk. (AFP Photo/Dimitar Dilkoff)

A picture taken on November 10, 2014, shows parts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80 kms east of Donetsk. (AFP Photo/Dimitar Dilkoff)

At the same time Putin disagreed with the Malaysian PM, who demanded greater access to the crash site “fully controlled by the local militia.”

“The reference that the crash site is fully controlled by so-called pro-Russian separatists is absolutely inconsistent, because it is not them, but the opposite side that is constantly shelling that territory,” Putin said. He noted that it is this shelling that prevents investigators from working properly at the crash site.

He welcomed the fact that Malaysian experts have finally got access to fully-fledged participation in the investigation.

“I’m sure your experts will contribute the necessary to the adequate investigation off this tragedy,” Putin told Razak.

An international team of investigators managed to recover more human remains from the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, the Dutch prime minister announced in late October.

Still, investigators are intending to continue with the search operation and hire local contractors to collect plane debris beyond their reach, Reuters reported last week.

Nobel Peace Prize laureates call on Obama to release CIA torture report

U.S. president Barack Obama

U.S. president Barack Obama – (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

 

Twelve winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have urged fellow laureate, US President Barack Obama, to release a Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program, also known as the torture report.

The laureates revealed late Sunday an open letter that called for “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture and rendition by American soldiers, operatives, and contractors, as well as the authorization of torture and rendition by American officials.”

The letter, posted on TheCommunity.com, also asked for a concrete plan to close secret international “black site” prisons – used by the US to hide, hold, and interrogate post-9/11 detainees – as well as the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where many War on Terror captives languish with few or inconsistent legal maneuvers, if any at all, at their disposal.

The letter was signed by past Nobel winners José Ramos-Horta, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, F.W. De Klerk, Leymah Gbowee, Muhammad Yunus, John Hume, Bishop Carlos X. Belo, Betty Williams, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jody Williams, Oscar Arias Sanchez, and Mohammad ElBaradei.

“In recent decades, by accepting the flagrant use of torture and other violations of international law in the name of combating terrorism, American leaders have eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend,” the laureates wrote.

“They have again set an example that will be followed by others; only now, it is one that will be used to justify the use of torture by regimes around the world, including against American soldiers in foreign lands. In losing their way, they have made us all vulnerable.”

The letter called on Obama, winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year in the White House, to follow principles of international law outlined in the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee’s $40 million investigation into the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program – which was active from September 11, 2001 to 2006 – has found that the spy agency purposely deceived the US Justice Department to attain legal justification for the use of torture techniques, among other findings. The investigation and subsequent crafting of the report ran from March 2009 to December 2012.

Of that 6,000-page investigative report, the public will only see a 500-page, partially-redacted executive summary that is in the process of declassification.

According to sources familiar with the unreleased report, the CIA, and not top officials of the George W. Bush administration, are blamed for interrogation tactics that amount to torture based on international legal standards.

The report outlines 20 main conclusions about the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program which, according to the investigation, intentionally evaded White House, congressional, and intra-agency oversight.

The White House is reportedly wrestling over how to interpret a ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” ahead of a meeting in Geneva next month concerning the United Nations charter on torture.

According to the New York Times, the Obama administration remains divided over what stance a Washington delegation will officially take at the UN-sponsored Committee Against Torture panel early next month in the Swiss city.

Although Barack Obama said before and after being elected to the White House that United States officials should never engage in torturous activity, Times national security journalist Charlie Savage reported on Sunday this week that administration officials might formally adopt another stance — one on par with the policies of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — when the panel convenes in a couple of weeks.

The Times reported that the attorneys who answer to the president are conflicted over whether or not the White House should revisit the Bush administration’s interpretation of a UN treaty, the likes of which authorized the use of enhanced interrogation tactics, like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, on individuals detained by military and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at facilities such as the Guantanamo Bay detention center and CIA so-called “black sites.”

The upcoming meeting will be the first one of Obama’s presidency, Savage acknowledged, presenting the commander-in-chief with a rare opportunity to speak of the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty that since the 1980s has aimed to ensure prisoners the world over aren’t subjected to inhumane conditions.

In Sunday’s report, Savage wrote that Obama, then a US senator, spoke out adamantly against Pres. Bush when it was revealed in 2005 that his administration had been interpreting the UN treaty in a manner that they argued made it acceptable for CIA and Pentagon officials to disregard the prohibitions against torture if they weren’t on American soil.

Obama the president later condemned that reasoning with an executive order “ensuring lawful interrogations,” Savage added, although next month’s meeting may change that.

“But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view,” Savage wrote. “It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.”

“State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation,” Savage added, which would simply continue to let the 2009 Obama-signed executive order stand as Washington’s official word and further ensure that American officials are obligated to adhere to the torture treaty regardless of where in the world they are located.

Other attorneys, he added, have a different idea of what to do at next month’s meeting, however. “But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad,” Savage wrote. “They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.”

Should those arguing on the latter side provoke, then the current administration could soon find itself agreeing with past policies that continue to be controversial nearly a decade after the Bush White House’s use of torture started to surface.

“Many foreign political leaders and non-governmental organizations have called for members of the Bush administration, including Bush himself, to face prosecution for allowing the abuse of detainees in US custody during the course of the US campaign against Islamic militant groups spurred by the 9/11 attacks,” Mark Hanrahan wrote for the International Business Times on Sunday. “The Bush administration, which launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had to contend with a number of allegations it allowed US officials to use torture against detainees during the course of its campaigns,” including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.

If the Pentagon and CIA attorneys prevail, then Washington could once again interpret the UN treaty in a manner that allows those same torturous practices to be performed on detainees once against, as long as any such instances occur abroad.

Last week, McClatchy news service reported that a classified $40 million probe launched by the Senate to investigate the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation program concludes without holding any administration officials responsible for the scandals at Abu Ghraib and other facilities that to this day remain a major scar on the presidency.

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” a person familiar with the report told McClatchy. “It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.”