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John McCain Calls For A 'Fundamental Reassessment' Of U.S. Relations With Russia

John McCain Calls For A ‘Fundamental Reassessment’ Of U.S. Relations With Russia.

Posted: 03/16/2014 10:24 am EDT Updated: 03/16/2014 1:59 pm EDT


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted that Russia would hold onto Crimea and called for a “fundamental reassessment” of America’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.

McCain, who had recently returned from a trip to Ukraine, said Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on whether to split from Ukraine was “a bogus thing,” comparing it to the plebiscites held in the days of Hitler and Stalin. “It’s a done deal,” he said.

He supported economic sanctions as an important step in the U.S. response to Russia’s actions.

“Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” McCain told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s kleptocracy, it’s corruption, it’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy.”

But he also said that wider action was necessary.

The U.S. has to “have a fundamental reassessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin,” he said. “No more reset buttons, no more ‘Tell Vladimir I’ll be more flexible.’ Treat him for what he is. That does not mean the reignition of the Cold War. But it does mean treating him in the way that we understand an individual who believes in restoring the old Russian empire.”

John McCain Calls For A ‘Fundamental Reassessment’ Of U.S. Relations With Russia

John McCain Calls For A ‘Fundamental Reassessment’ Of U.S. Relations With Russia.

Posted: 03/16/2014 10:24 am EDT Updated: 03/16/2014 1:59 pm EDT


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted that Russia would hold onto Crimea and called for a “fundamental reassessment” of America’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.

McCain, who had recently returned from a trip to Ukraine, said Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on whether to split from Ukraine was “a bogus thing,” comparing it to the plebiscites held in the days of Hitler and Stalin. “It’s a done deal,” he said.

He supported economic sanctions as an important step in the U.S. response to Russia’s actions.

“Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” McCain told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s kleptocracy, it’s corruption, it’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy.”

But he also said that wider action was necessary.

The U.S. has to “have a fundamental reassessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin,” he said. “No more reset buttons, no more ‘Tell Vladimir I’ll be more flexible.’ Treat him for what he is. That does not mean the reignition of the Cold War. But it does mean treating him in the way that we understand an individual who believes in restoring the old Russian empire.”

Dianne Feinstein: CIA May Have Broken The Law To Spy On Senate Staff

Dianne Feinstein: CIA May Have Broken The Law To Spy On Senate Staff.

Posted: 03/11/2014 10:47 am EDT Updated: 03/11/2014 1:59 pm EDT

 

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) delivered a devastating broadside against the CIA Tuesday, alleging that the agency was trying to intimidate Congress and may have broken the law in spying on Senate staffers.

Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was responding to CIA charges that Senate staffers had hacked CIA computers to learn that the spy agency was in fact spying on the people charged with overseeing its activities. Those revelations surfaced last week, prompting the countercharge against the CIA and a CIA complaint to the Justice Department.

But Feinstein, who is often a strong defender of the intelligence community, hammered the agency in a morning Senate floor speech, saying that the CIA knew of every step the Intelligence Committee staffers took and that the CIA provided all the documents that the agency later questioned.

To allege that staffers may have broken the law was dishonest, she said, and smacked of an attempt to bully civilians responsible for checking agency abuses.

“Our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled the sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the [documents] by the CIA itself,” Feinstein said. “As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the [CIA’s] acting general counsel’s referral [to the Justice Department] as a potential effort to intimidate this staff, and I am not taking it lightly.”

Feinstein also rattled her own saber, noting that the CIA official who referred the matter to the Justice Department was himself at the center of the very CIA interrogation techniques her committee is currently investigating. The Intelligence Committee has prepared a secret, 6,000-page report on the agency’s interrogation programs that is expected to outline a number of illegal activities and bring into question the value of such programs.

The remarkable flare-up stems from an agreement between the CIA and the committee that the agency could monitor the committee’s use of the agency’s computers, which were provided to Senate staffers in a secure room at the CIA. Staffers were able to analyze millions of documents on the computers in order to create the report on CIA interrogation techniques.

Feinstein also said Tuesday that she is pushing the White House to find a way to release that classified 6,000-page report so that the public can learn what the CIA has done in its name.

“I have asked for an apology, and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by this oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither,” Feinstein said. “Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA search may have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as [an executive order], which bars the CIA from conducting domestic surveillance.”

Feinstein added that the CIA’s inspector general, David Buckley, has referred the CIA’s actions to the Justice Department for investigation.

The DOJ and CIA could not immediately be reached for comment. A CIA spokesman deferred comment to CIA Director John Brennan, who was expected to speak at 11 a.m. EDT.

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. ET — Brennan later adamantly denied that the CIA had broken any laws, but allowed that all the facts were not yet out.

“As far as allegations about CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason,” Brennan said, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But pushed by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, who was moderating the event, Brennan admitted that there was considerable doubt about what has happened.

“Appropriate authorities right now, both inside of CIA as well as outside of CIA, are looking at what CIA officers as well as what [Senate] staffers did,” Brennan said. “I defer to them.”

Asked what he would do if Feinstein’s allegations prove true, Brennan demurred, and suggested lawmakers should cool down.

“I will deal with the facts as uncovered in the appropriate manner,” he said. “I would just encourage members of the Senate to take their time, to make sure that they don’t overstate what they claim and what they probably believe to be the truth. These are some complicated matters.”

He left whether or not he should keep his job to President Barack Obama.

“If I did something wrong, I will go to the president and I will explain to him exactly what I did, and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or go,” Brennan said.

The 6,000-page report is extremely sensitive to the intelligence agency, and advocates of publicizing the report have accused the CIA of dragging its feet.

Brennan denied any intentional delays as well.

“We are not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report’s progression or release,” he said. Admitting that practices such as waterboarding — which Obama has banned — represent a dark chapter in the CIA’s record, he added, “We want this behind us.”

UPDATE: 1:51 p.m. — Asked later about Brennan’s pushback and how the facts of the dispute might ultimately come out, Feinstein stood her ground. “The facts just did come out,” she told several reporters on Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: 1:56 p.m. — White House press secretary Jay Carney later ducked the issue, reiterating that the investigation falls to the CIA’s inspector general.

President Obama has “great confidence” in Brennan, Carney said during his daily briefing. He added that if there has been any “inappropriate activity,” the president “would want to get to the bottom of it.”

Read Feinstein’s speech in full here.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Obama To Putin: Russia Action Violates Ukraine’s Sovereignty

Obama To Putin: Russia Action Violates Ukraine’s Sovereignty.

Posted: 03/06/2014 6:39 pm EST Updated: 03/07/2014 11:18 am EST


MORE:

BY BRADLEY KLAPPER & LARA JAKES, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama ordered the West’s first sanctions in response to Russia’s military takeover of Crimea on Thursday, declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine. He asserted that a hastily scheduled referendum on Crimea seceding and becoming part of Russia would violate international law.

European leaders announced their own measures but split over how forcefully to follow America’s lead. Obama threatened further steps if Russia persists.

After announcing his sanctions at midday, Obama emphasized his resolve in a personal telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin later Thursday, the White House said. In a one-hour discussion, Obama affirmed his contention that Russia’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The U.S. president told Putin there was still a way to resolve the dispute diplomatically, the White House said — with Russian forces moving back to their base in Crimea, the governments of Ukraine and Russia holding direct talks and international monitors arriving.

The U.S. is also calling on Russia to recognize the legitimacy of Ukrainian plans for elections in May, not the Crimean referendum a week from Sunday.

In all, signs still pointed to a continuing diplomatic battle over Ukraine and what could prove a broader fault line in Europe’s post-Cold War order.

While East and West no longer threaten nuclear war and have vastly expanded commercial ties, Russia is determined to dominate the future of the former Soviet republics along its borders. Washington, its NATO partners and others across the continent are striving to pull these nations out of Moscow’s orbit.

Underscoring his position, Obama issued an executive action slapping new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kiev and authorizing wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets. None of the measures appeared aimed at the Russian president personally.

“Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve,” Obama said at the White House. “That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis.”

Obama hailed U.S. cooperation with the European Union, which imposed its own sanctions on Russia on Thursday. In an emergency meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided to suspend talks with Putin’s government on a wide-ranging economic agreement and on granting Russian citizens visa-free travel within the 28-nation bloc — a long-standing Russian objective. Yet at the same time, Europe’s presidents and prime ministers were divided on more drastic steps such as freezing assets and issuing travel bans on Russian officials.

European hesitancy reflected the reality that targeting influential Russian businessmen or major Russian companies would also harm Europe’s economic interests. Russian investors hold assets worth billions in European banks, particularly in Britain and Cyprus, and major exporters such as Germany and the Netherlands have far more at stake than the United States in Russia’s consumer economy. Many other European countries depend on Russia for oil and gas supplies.

Russian troops have seized control of much of Crimea, where ethnic Russians are the majority. Moscow doesn’t recognize the Ukrainian government that came to power after protesters ousted the country’s pro-Russian president last month. Putin and other officials have cited strategic interests as well as the protection of ethnic Russians in making the case for intervention. Russia leases a major navy base there.

The Western debate over how strongly to penalize Russia is important given that neither the U.S. nor Europe is advocating the use of force. The U.S. military has stepped up joint aviation training with Polish forces and American participation in NATO’s air-policing mission in its Baltic countries. But the Pentagon, like its NATO partners, has strictly ruled out military options.

In the latest threatening move Thursday, Crimean lawmakers voted 78-0 to schedule a referendum on March 16 on whether the region should secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Obama said such a vote would “violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law.” Because Ukraine is a member of the United Nations, any action that is unconstitutional in Ukraine would be considered illegitimate in international law.

But the West supported Kosovo’s independence six years ago, which included no consent by Serbia’s government and occurred despite Russian objections, Obama might have been trying to differentiate Ukraine’s situation by arguing that borders shouldn’t be “redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.”

The U.S. sanctions push has prompted a rare case of broad agreement among the Obama administration and most Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

The House of Representatives voted 385-23 on Thursday in favor of the first U.S. aid bill for Ukraine’s fledgling government, following on an Obama administration promise of $1 billion in loan guarantees. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a separate resolution condemning Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea and urging visa, financial and trade sanctions. Senators are at work on a larger bill putting together all elements of a U.S. response and hope to introduce the legislation next week.

The EU offered $15 billion in aid to help Ukraine’s cash-depleted economy on Wednesday, still far short of the $35 billion that Ukraine’s government says it needs in bailout loans through next year. The U.S., EU and others are trying to work out a package with the International Monetary Fund.

Showing greater caution than Obama on sanctions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European penalties against Russia depend “on how the diplomatic process progresses.” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of an EU-Russia summit could still come. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk acknowledged “no enthusiasm” in Europe for economic sanctions.

Western leaders fear Russia is becoming entrenched in Crimea and could turn its focus to Ukraine’s industrial heart in the east, where Russian speakers similarly are a majority. Central and Eastern European countries that lived for decades under the Soviet Union’s domination are especially sensitive to the threat. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite warned, “After Ukraine will be Moldova, and after Moldova will be different countries.”

For the U.S. and its allies, the specter of Georgia’s 2008 schism looms large. After a nine-day war between Russia and Georgia’s then pro-Western government, the Kremlin supported two regions in breaking away from Georgia. Most of the world doesn’t recognize their independence, but Russia protects their autonomy. Then, as now, the U.S. and EU reaction was limited in scope and included no military moves. In the United States, Obama initiated a “reset” of ties with Russia less than a year later.

With Ukraine at risk of a similar fate, the U.S. has suspended talks on an investment treaty with Russia. NATO has halted military cooperation with Russia and has decided to review all aspects of the relationship with Moscow. The U.S. and European countries have halted preparations for a planned June summit in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

But so far Putin hasn’t budged. His government claims that Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president, remains the leader of Ukraine. The pro-Russian Yanukovych fled to a location near Moscow for protection.

Also Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry met again with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Kerry stressed a need for a direct Russian-Ukrainian dialogue and the importance of allowing international monitors into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Diplomatic progress appeared elusive.

___

Lara Jakes reported from Rome. AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington and AP writers Juergen Baetz and Mike Corder in Brussels and Yuras Karmanau in Simferopol, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

Obama To Putin: Russia Action Violates Ukraine's Sovereignty

Obama To Putin: Russia Action Violates Ukraine’s Sovereignty.

Posted: 03/06/2014 6:39 pm EST Updated: 03/07/2014 11:18 am EST


MORE:

BY BRADLEY KLAPPER & LARA JAKES, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama ordered the West’s first sanctions in response to Russia’s military takeover of Crimea on Thursday, declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine. He asserted that a hastily scheduled referendum on Crimea seceding and becoming part of Russia would violate international law.

European leaders announced their own measures but split over how forcefully to follow America’s lead. Obama threatened further steps if Russia persists.

After announcing his sanctions at midday, Obama emphasized his resolve in a personal telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin later Thursday, the White House said. In a one-hour discussion, Obama affirmed his contention that Russia’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The U.S. president told Putin there was still a way to resolve the dispute diplomatically, the White House said — with Russian forces moving back to their base in Crimea, the governments of Ukraine and Russia holding direct talks and international monitors arriving.

The U.S. is also calling on Russia to recognize the legitimacy of Ukrainian plans for elections in May, not the Crimean referendum a week from Sunday.

In all, signs still pointed to a continuing diplomatic battle over Ukraine and what could prove a broader fault line in Europe’s post-Cold War order.

While East and West no longer threaten nuclear war and have vastly expanded commercial ties, Russia is determined to dominate the future of the former Soviet republics along its borders. Washington, its NATO partners and others across the continent are striving to pull these nations out of Moscow’s orbit.

Underscoring his position, Obama issued an executive action slapping new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kiev and authorizing wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets. None of the measures appeared aimed at the Russian president personally.

“Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve,” Obama said at the White House. “That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis.”

Obama hailed U.S. cooperation with the European Union, which imposed its own sanctions on Russia on Thursday. In an emergency meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided to suspend talks with Putin’s government on a wide-ranging economic agreement and on granting Russian citizens visa-free travel within the 28-nation bloc — a long-standing Russian objective. Yet at the same time, Europe’s presidents and prime ministers were divided on more drastic steps such as freezing assets and issuing travel bans on Russian officials.

European hesitancy reflected the reality that targeting influential Russian businessmen or major Russian companies would also harm Europe’s economic interests. Russian investors hold assets worth billions in European banks, particularly in Britain and Cyprus, and major exporters such as Germany and the Netherlands have far more at stake than the United States in Russia’s consumer economy. Many other European countries depend on Russia for oil and gas supplies.

Russian troops have seized control of much of Crimea, where ethnic Russians are the majority. Moscow doesn’t recognize the Ukrainian government that came to power after protesters ousted the country’s pro-Russian president last month. Putin and other officials have cited strategic interests as well as the protection of ethnic Russians in making the case for intervention. Russia leases a major navy base there.

The Western debate over how strongly to penalize Russia is important given that neither the U.S. nor Europe is advocating the use of force. The U.S. military has stepped up joint aviation training with Polish forces and American participation in NATO’s air-policing mission in its Baltic countries. But the Pentagon, like its NATO partners, has strictly ruled out military options.

In the latest threatening move Thursday, Crimean lawmakers voted 78-0 to schedule a referendum on March 16 on whether the region should secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Obama said such a vote would “violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law.” Because Ukraine is a member of the United Nations, any action that is unconstitutional in Ukraine would be considered illegitimate in international law.

But the West supported Kosovo’s independence six years ago, which included no consent by Serbia’s government and occurred despite Russian objections, Obama might have been trying to differentiate Ukraine’s situation by arguing that borders shouldn’t be “redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.”

The U.S. sanctions push has prompted a rare case of broad agreement among the Obama administration and most Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

The House of Representatives voted 385-23 on Thursday in favor of the first U.S. aid bill for Ukraine’s fledgling government, following on an Obama administration promise of $1 billion in loan guarantees. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a separate resolution condemning Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea and urging visa, financial and trade sanctions. Senators are at work on a larger bill putting together all elements of a U.S. response and hope to introduce the legislation next week.

The EU offered $15 billion in aid to help Ukraine’s cash-depleted economy on Wednesday, still far short of the $35 billion that Ukraine’s government says it needs in bailout loans through next year. The U.S., EU and others are trying to work out a package with the International Monetary Fund.

Showing greater caution than Obama on sanctions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European penalties against Russia depend “on how the diplomatic process progresses.” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of an EU-Russia summit could still come. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk acknowledged “no enthusiasm” in Europe for economic sanctions.

Western leaders fear Russia is becoming entrenched in Crimea and could turn its focus to Ukraine’s industrial heart in the east, where Russian speakers similarly are a majority. Central and Eastern European countries that lived for decades under the Soviet Union’s domination are especially sensitive to the threat. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite warned, “After Ukraine will be Moldova, and after Moldova will be different countries.”

For the U.S. and its allies, the specter of Georgia’s 2008 schism looms large. After a nine-day war between Russia and Georgia’s then pro-Western government, the Kremlin supported two regions in breaking away from Georgia. Most of the world doesn’t recognize their independence, but Russia protects their autonomy. Then, as now, the U.S. and EU reaction was limited in scope and included no military moves. In the United States, Obama initiated a “reset” of ties with Russia less than a year later.

With Ukraine at risk of a similar fate, the U.S. has suspended talks on an investment treaty with Russia. NATO has halted military cooperation with Russia and has decided to review all aspects of the relationship with Moscow. The U.S. and European countries have halted preparations for a planned June summit in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

But so far Putin hasn’t budged. His government claims that Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president, remains the leader of Ukraine. The pro-Russian Yanukovych fled to a location near Moscow for protection.

Also Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry met again with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Kerry stressed a need for a direct Russian-Ukrainian dialogue and the importance of allowing international monitors into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Diplomatic progress appeared elusive.

___

Lara Jakes reported from Rome. AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington and AP writers Juergen Baetz and Mike Corder in Brussels and Yuras Karmanau in Simferopol, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

Snowden Docs: U.S. Spied On Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit

Snowden Docs: U.S. Spied On Negotiators At 2009 Climate Summit.

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document, with portions marked “top secret,” indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting. Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that “analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies.”

“Second Party partners” refers to the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the U.S. has an intelligence-sharing relationship. “While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event,” the document says.

The Huffington Post published the documents Wednesday night in coordination with the Danish daily newspaper Information, which worked with American journalist Laura Poitras.

The December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which brings together 195 countries to negotiate measures to address rising greenhouse gas emissions and their impact. The Copenhagen summit was the first big climate meeting after the election of President Barack Obama, and was widely expected to yield a significant breakthrough. Other major developed nations were already part of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emissions limits, while the United States — the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases when the protocol went into effect in 2004 — had famously declined to join. The two-week meeting was supposed to produce a successor agreement that would include the U.S., as well as China, India and other countries with rapidly increasing emissions.

The document indicates that the NSA planned to gather information as the leaders and negotiating teams of other countries held private discussions throughout the Copenhagen meeting. “[L]eaders and negotiating teams from around the world will undoubtedly be engaging in intense last-minute policy formulating; at the same time, they will be holding sidebar discussions with their counterparts — details of which are of great interest to our policymakers,” the document states. The information likely would be used to brief U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama, among others, according to the document.

The document does not detail how the agency planned to continue gathering information during the summit, other than noting that it would be capturing signals intelligence such as calls and emails. Previous disclosures have indicated that the NSA has the ability to monitor the mobile phones of heads of state. Other documents that Snowden has released indicate that the U.K.’s intelligence service tapped into delegates’ email and telephone communications at the 2009 G-20 meetings in London. Other previous Snowden disclosures documented the surveillance of the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada in 2010, and the U.N. climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

The document also refers to some intelligence gathered ahead of the meeting, including a report that “detailed China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome.” It refers to another report that “provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to launch a ‘rescue plan’ to save COP-15.”

The Danish proposal was a draft agreement that the country’s negotiators had drawn up in the months ahead of the summit in consultation with a small number key of countries. The text was leaked to The Guardian early in the conference, causing some disarray as countries that were not consulted balked that it promoted the interests of developed nations and undermined principles laid out in previous climate negotiations. As Information reports, Danish officials wanted to keep U.S. negotiators from seeing the text in the weeks ahead of the conference, worried that it may dim their ambitions in the negotiations for proposed cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Danes did share the text with the U.S. and other key nations ahead of the meeting. But the NSA document noting this as “advance details” indicates that the U.S. may have already intercepted it. The paragraph referring to the Danish text is marked “SI” in the Snowden document — which most likely means “signals intelligence,” indicating that it came from electronic information intercepted by the NSA, rather than being provided to the U.S. negotiators.

That could be why U.S. negotiators took the positions they did going into the conference, a Danish official told Information. “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document,” the official said. “They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”

Members of the Danish delegation indicated in interviews with Information that they thought the American and Chinese negotiators seemed “peculiarly well-informed” about discussions that had taken place behind closed doors. “Particularly the Americans,” said one official. “I was often completely taken aback by what they knew.”

Despite high hopes for an agreement at Copenhagen, the negotiations started slowly and there were few signs of progress. Obama and heads of state from more than 100 nations arrived late in the second week in hopes of achieving a breakthrough, but the final day wore on without an outcome. There were few promising signals until late Friday night, when Obama made a surprise announcement that he — along with leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — had come up with the “Copenhagen Accord.”

The three-page document set a goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, but allowed countries to write their own plans for cutting emissions — leaving out any legally binding targets or even a path to a formal treaty. Obama called the accord “an unprecedented breakthrough” in a press conference, then took off for home on Air Force One. But other countries balked, pointing out that the accord was merely a political agreement, drafted outside the U.N. process and of uncertain influence for future negotiations.

The climate summits since then have advanced at a glacial pace; a legally binding treaty isn’t currently expected until 2015. And the U.S. Congress, despite assurances made in Copenhagen, never passed new laws cutting planet-warming emissions. (The Environmental Protection Agency is, however, moving forward with regulations on emissions from power plants, but a new law to addressing the issue had been widely considered as preferable.)

The revelation that the NSA was surveilling the communications of leaders during the Copenhagen talks is unlikely to help build the trust of negotiators from other nations in the future.

“It can’t help in the sense that if people think you’re trying to get an unfair advantage or manipulate the process, they’re not going to have much trust in you,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a seasoned veteran of the U.N. climate negotiations. Meyer said he worried that the disclosure might cause the parties to “start becoming more cautious, more secretive, and less forthcoming” in the negotiations. “That’s not a good dynamic in a process where you’re trying to encourage collaboration, compromise, and working together, as opposed to trying to get a comparative advantage,” he said.

Obama has defended the NSA’s work as important in fighting terrorism at home and abroad. But the latest Snowden document indicates that the agency plays a broader role in protecting U.S. interests internationally.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment directly on the Snowden document in an email to The Huffington Post, but did say that “the U.S. Government has made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.” She noted that Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on the NSA “laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms the Administration will adopt or seek to codify with Congress” regarding surveillance.

“In particular, he issued a new Presidential Directive that lays out new principles that govern how we conduct signals intelligence collection, and strengthen how we provide executive branch oversight of our signals intelligence activities,” Hayden said. “It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by the President’s senior national security team.”

The Kochs Have Bet Big That The Earth Is Doomed | Eric Zuesse

The Kochs Have Bet Big That The Earth Is Doomed | Eric Zuesse.

The Kochs have bet big that the earth is doomed. (And Obama is fighting for them to win that bet).

Forbes magazine noted, way back in 2006, that though the Koch brothers – David and Charles – could sell Koch Industries and live happily ever after (on the proceeds from selling what was then the world’s largest private company), Charles, who actually runs the firm, told them straight out, that selling it would be “literally over my dead body.”

In other words: they won’t do that.

What, then, is such an extraordinary business plan, that keeps them from simply retiring as two of the world’s richest people? The answer seems clear:

Petroleum has been their firm’s base, ever since their dad, Fred Koch, started Koch Industries in 1940 (on the proceeds he had earned mainly during 1929-32 from helping Stalin build the Soviet Union’s crucial oil-infrastructure). However, Koch Industries has been diversifying recently. In 2004, they paid $4.2 billion for Dupont’s fibers businesses, including Dacron and much else. Then, in 2005, they paid $21 billion for Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products manufacturer.

But their chief business continues to be petroleum: not just the pipelines to transport it, but increasingly also the raw oil in the ground, and the dirtier the oil the better. They now own two-thirds of the world’s dirtiest oil: Alberta Canada’s tar sands. And they are lobbying and propagandizing heavily for President Obama to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (which pipeline they would own 25%) in order for that deeply land-locked Canadian oil to be transported to two of their own Texas refineries, which have been especially adapted for the purpose. Not only would they be deriving about $1 billion per year from operating the pipeline, but they would also be marketing the tar sands, two thirds of which are on land that is owned by Koch Industries. That’s the two-thirds of Alberta’s tar sands oil that the Kochs actually own.

However, one of the world’s biggest banks, HSBC, came out with a study, on 25 January 2013, “Oil & Carbon Revisited: Value at Risk from ‘Unburnable’ Reserves,” which reported that in order for this planet to have even as much as a 50% chance of avoiding the climate’s going haywire, “only around 1,000 Gt [Gigatons] or a third of current proven reserves can be ‘burned’.” Furthermore, “Embedded ‘carbon’ in coal is three times the amount bound in oil and over four times that in gas.” This report acknowledged that, “It is clear that reduced usage of coal [whose usage is soaring in China and already causing massive health-problems in Chinese cities] is the key to stabilising and eventually reducing annual carbon emissions. However, we believe that reductions in oil demand … can be delivered more quickly than coal through improvements in transport fuel economy.” In other words: forcing a reduction in oil-use is absolutely essential, in order for our descendants not to lose the planet quickly.

On page 16 of that report was a stunning calculation, titled “Break-evens for selected high-cost oil projects,” and the researchers actually calculated there the price that a barrel of oil would need to fetch on the global market in order for each type of petroleum to be able to be produced without the sellers losing money on that oil. For “Deepwater” projects, it ranged from $49.40 up to $64.00. On “Heavy oil,” it was $54.70. And on “Oil sands” (Alberta’s oil, the dirtiest in the world), it was $75.50.

In other words, the Koch brothers (via their private firm) own two-thirds of the world’s dirtiest petroleum, which consequently is so costly to process, that it becomes utterly worthless at a global per-barrel price of $75.50. All other oil would still be profitable at that price, but not the oil that now constitutes the biggest speculative (and by far the riskiest) portion of the Koch brothers’ (or of Koch Industries’) massive investment portfolio.

Whereas other oil companies have focused on the lowest-cost petroleums to get to market, the Kochs have focused instead on the highest-cost petroleum to get to market. They bought it cheap, because it’s so dirty and land-locked.

Their business-plan (other than diversifying into non-petroleum industries) is simple: Drive their costs to produce their filthy oil down from the existing $75.50 per barrel, in order to make it more competitive (since they own two-thirds of the estimated 874 billion barrels of this stuff).

How can they drive that cost down? Right now, President Barack Obama is negotiating, behind the scenes, through his U.S. Trade Representative, to get Europe to weaken its anti-global-warming standards, so as to enable the world’s dirtiest oil to become more price-competitive.

On 24 September 2013, Kate Sheppard at Huffington Post bannered “Michael Froman, Top U.S. Trade Official, Sides With Tar Sands Advocates,” and she reported that the Obama Administration was threatening Europe with retaliation at the World Trade Organization if Europe didn’t eliminate its distinction between high-CO2 oil and regular oil – between tar-sands-derived oil, and ordinary petroleum. The U.S. Trade Representative told Congress that the issue he had here didn’t concern climate change, but only “inadequate transparency and public participation in the European Commission’s regulatory process.” Then, Sheppard herself asked one of his aides, who simply reiterated that by saying, “The United States shares the EU’s objective of reducing greenhouse gas intensity, but we have raised concerns with respect to inadequate transparency and public participation in the European Commission’s regulatory process.” Sheppard, at least as far as her news report indicated, asked no follow-up question, such as: “‘inadequate’ in what way; and how can you even be talking about that since the issue here is global warming?” So: the President and his Representative have not been confronted publicly on this matter.

Barack Obama’s public statements against global warming were belied by his actions in private, and yet his hirees, such as the U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, formerly a Managing Director of Citigroup, were turning the table and accusing the EU of “inadequate transparency” – as if the future of this planet weren’t the issue, and a vastly more important one.

If President Obama can force Europe to lower their anti-global-warming standards in order to enable the Kochs to export their super-dirty oil to Europe via the Kochs’ Corpus Christi Texas refineries, then a significant portion of the existing cost-disadvantage of the Kochs’ super-dirty oil (as compared to cleaner oil) will be absorbed ultimately by the planet itself, in the form of added global warming. “These refineries have a combined crude oil processing capacity of about 300,000 barrels per day. While one potential purpose of the KXL Pipeline for Koch Industries could be to provide access to Canadian tar sands for its Corpus Christi refineries, this benefit appears relatively insignificant compared to their massive potential profits from producing tar sands crude oil.” (See page 11 there.) In other words: President Obama is negotiating behind the scenes in order to transfer these harms onto everyone else, so that the benefits will go to the Kochs for their having paid dirt-prices for each and every one of the two million acres of tar sands they own. (That’s on page 7.) Consequently, there would be, for the Koch brothers (as stated in the report’s Executive Summary), “$100 billion in potential profits due to KXL.” Their destroying this planet would thus be very profitable for them.

Apparently, this is the business plan that they are so eager to pursue that it’s more attractive to them than simply retiring: Instead of their being each tied with the other as being the6th-wealthiest person on this planet, they’d probably be by far the wealthiest two people of all individuals on Earth. (The report estimates that their joint existing fortune of roughly $80 billion will be enhanced by yet another $100 billion, for a total of $180 billion, or $90 billion apiece.) Apparently, the Kochs are doing this for sheer status. (They couldn’t possibly consume all their wealth even if they wanted to.) It thus seems that their motivation is basically similar to that of their father’s great benefactor, Stalin. His status was based on communist values; theirs is based on fascist values; but the motivation is status, just the same.

And Barack Obama, against whom the Kochs bundled more campaign cash than any other two people, for Mitt Romney and for Republicans in Congress and in the state houses, is fighting against the European Union, in order to assist the Kochs to achieve this, their dream. Perhaps that’s the only thing in this story that doesn’t make sense, but it is certainly the case, up till now. And (if there is another thing that doesn’t make sense) the massively ignorant American public wants them to win.

Obama’s excuse for trying to force Europe to buy the Kochs’ filthy oil might be called ludicrous. However, since this excuse proves that he is a hypocritical liar, and the stakes that are involved here are enormous for the entire world, it is, instead, tragic, if is not outright catastrophic.

Perhaps Obama, too, is chiefly driven by status. Then, all of this insanity on the part of the elite might make sense – in an insane sort of way. Maybe status-addicts are actually the type of people who most tend to rise to the top, anywhere. Hitler, Stalin, Capone, Koch, Obama, Bush: what’s the difference, really, other than their “personality”?

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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