Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’
from July, 2010
Thoughtful and rational discussion of this issue is in short supply. Steven Aftergood is the writer of Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists, which reports on new developments in government secrecy and provides public access to documentary resources on secrecy, intelligence and national security policy.
July 30, 2010 Transcript Onthemedia audio available at site
WikiLeaks leaked the biggest collection of classified documents in U.S. history, a fact that should make government-transparency advocates proud. But even some of WikiLeaks most likely allies have mixed feelings about precisely how this leak took place and how WikiLeaks operates. Longtime open government writer Steven Aftergood makes his case.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: WikiLeaks has demonstrated its ability to flout U.S. law by being, in effect, stateless. Guided by different priorities than the more traditional advocates of sunlight, it lives by the rules of the Internet. Here’s Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder, explaining his code of conduct.
JULIAN ASSANGE: We’re an activist organization. The method is transparency. The goal is justice.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Steven Aftergood is the longtime writer of the email newsletter and blog, Secrecy News. For years he’s reported and researched government secrecy and advocated for U.S. government transparency. He’s no stranger to the antagonism between secrecy and disclosure. But in recent months he’s been a critic of WikiLeaks and its methods. Steven, welcome back to the show.
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So in June you wrote a blog post offering some praise for WikiLeaks, but you didn’t mince words when it came to its failings. You wrote, quote: “It is not whistleblowing and it is not journalism. It is a kind of information vandalism.”
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: What I was responding to there was a pattern of activity by WikiLeaks in which they were disclosing confidential records of social and religious groups, like the Masons and the Mormons and several others, that did not reveal any misconduct. And it seemed to me that they were using the posture of transparency as a kind of weapon against disfavored groups. And, to me, that was a really repugnant thing to do.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What about the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007 that WikiLeaks leaked in April?
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: Well, that I thought was a perfectly legitimate disclosure. I wish the Pentagon had released it when they had been asked to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
The GM clause to food security
The US Global Food Security Act of 2009 (S. 384) sponsored by Richard Lugar (Indiana, Republican), Robert Casey (Pennsylvania, Democrat) and seven other US Senators in February 2009 is [1, 2] “A bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crises, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and for other purposes.”
However, the proposed amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 has proven controversial. It would “include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.”
The bill is supported by the US land grant colleges as well as InterAction (American Council for Voluntary International Action) and its 26 member organizations including WWF, Oxfam, Bread for the World CARE, Save the Children, and ONE . The bill was passed through the Senate foreign Relations Committee on 31 March 2009, and the Senate is expected to vote on it soon in 2010.
Widespread opposition to GM mandate
In April 2010, 140 civil society groups, scientists, and development experts signed an open letter to US Senators, urging them to “strip the GM mandate” from the Global Food Security Act . While the petitioners applaud the bill’s intention to reform aid programmes to focus on longer-term agricultural development and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises, they object to the clause effectively earmarking one agricultural technology – genetic modification – for billions of dollars in federal funding. US$7.7 billion goes with the bill, and no other farming methods or technologies are mentioned.
Not surprisingly, Monsanto has lobbied the hardest to support the bill. The US company is the world’s leader in the increasingly concentrated agricultural biotech industry, which is already subject to an anti-trust inquiry (see  US Farmers Oppose ‘Big Ag’ in Anti-Trust Hearing, SiS 46). Monsanto is likely to benefit most from the new research funding stream, and to profit from its patented products (both GM seeds and pesticides).
The petitioning groups represent the anti-hunger, family farms, farm-workers, consumers and those practicing and supporting sustainable agriculture. The letter delivered urges the Senate to reject the bill until it is made technology-neutral, and calls for agricultural research funding to concentrate on addressing local challenges faced by small-scale farmers, instead of mandating a specific and narrow technological fix, particularly one with little prospect of success and increasingly rejected by countries around the world.
A senior Indian editor wrote on Sunday, “Headley … was convicted on drug charges and sent to jail in the US. We know also that he was subsequently released from jail and handed over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which said that it wanted to send him to Pakistan as an undercover agent. All this is a matter of public record. What happened between the time the US sent Headley into Pakistan and his arrest at Chicago airport a few months ago? How did an American agent turn into a terrorist? The US will not say.”
March 23, 2010 Asia Times
A spy unsettles US–India ties
Mumbai attacks planner was a CIA agent
By M K Bhadrakumar
[Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.]
News that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had reached a plea bargain with David Coleman Headley, who played a key role in the planning of the terrorist strike in Mumbai in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed, has caused an uproar in India.
The deal enables the US government to hold back from formally producing any evidence against Headley in a court of law that might have included details of his links with US intelligence or oblige any cross-examination of Headley by the prosecution.