MatrixLeaks: December 2012

Which Obama should we believe?

As the news of the Connecticut school massacre sinks in, it would take a hard-hearted person not to feel for the parents, families and friends of the victims. It is the sort of event which most of us will not experience first-hand, but some of us may know someone who has gone through a similar tragedy.

In fact, a good friend of mine lost one nephew in a bomb attack in 2008 and last month another nephew was seriously wounded in almost identical circumstances. On the second occasion, President Barack Obama gave the people who wounded the young man - one leg was blown off, as was half of an arm - the green light to continue with their maiming and slaughter of innocents "in self-defence".

My friend, as you might have guessed, is a Palestinian from Gaza; his nephews' attackers were Israelis. There was no sign of any grief from Obama, the newly-elected US president on either occasion. No wiping of a tear, nor heartfelt words to try to comfort those left behind to cope with their grief and efforts to re-establish a normal life of the kind we all take for granted.

Like all of his predecessors since World War Two, Obama gives Israel carte blanche to do whatever it wants to the Palestinians. Indeed, he even makes sure that it has the most up-to-date arsenal with which to do its dirty work. Just last week, it was announced that America will replace the munitions used by Israel in its massive bombardment of civilians in the Gaza Strip for eight days and nights in November. Has he suggested that arms and ammunition should be made easier for US citizens to obtain in the wake of Connecticut? No way; he's already, less than 24 hours later, talking of re-opening the debate about gun control. The President of the United States is, however, more than willing to pump the most lethal munitions the military-industrial complex can produce to a state which breaks international laws and conventions at will, and with impunity thanks to his country's unflinching support.

Israel fulfils all of the usual criteria for classification as a rogue state, and yet America insists that it has a "right" to defend its citizens from "terrorism". As the dominant state in the world, the US definition of "terrorism" and who is a "terrorist" takes precedence, so the people of Palestine, whose right as a people under military occupation to resist in every which way they can must surely take precedence over any rights of the occupiers, are labelled as "terrorists". This is manifestly unjust, yet the same president, a "family man" who can shed a tear at the tragic loss of American lives is incapable of sharing the pain of the family men and women who lose their children in besieged Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Far from it; he encourages the killers to carry on with more of the same. And what about the victims of America's drone attacks, many of whom, like those in Gaza killed by Israeli bombs paid for by US taxpayers, have also been "children aged between 5 and 10 years... With their entire lives ahead of them..."? No US presidential tears are shed for them on prime-time television.

There are many aspects of Obama which are hard to stomach: the nauseous pseudo-sincerity which afflicts all US politicians, especially at election time (who are they waving at when they step on to the podium?); his crocodile tears at the deaths of innocent American children when he and his people know that he has been responsible for the violent and bloody deaths of hundreds of children around the world; his weasel words in Cairo in 2009 which haven't been matched by his actions; in short, the hypocrisy and double standards that affect international politics led by Washington. So which Obama on view should we believe?

Can we really believe him when he talks about the need for gun control at home while he is all too willing to spread death and destruction through arms sales and "military aid" to countries like Israel? Can we really believe him when he talks about protecting "US interests" when what he really means is bowing to the pro-Israel Lobby which dictates America's foreign policy and puts the interests of an alien state before those of the American people? Can we really believe him when he makes speeches promising better relations with the Muslim world but then continues to give the main protagonist in the Middle East and the biggest threat to world peace - the state of Israel - unbridled political, financial and military support to occupy Muslim lands and kill Muslims almost daily? Can we really believe anything the man says about "peace and democracy" when he presides over a government which sends drones to kill Muslims in foreign lands with an incredibly high body count of innocents along the way?

The enigma that is Barack Obama is becoming clearer. He is in thrall to Israel and the campaign donations and votes that his support elicits. Even as a second-term president able to pursue his own policies without fear of the lobbyists and their pernicious agendas, Obama is weak and incapable of standing up for what is right. The people of America should thus take his words about reassessing gun control with a massive pinch of salt. He doesn't mean them; his actions in the Middle East and elsewhere demonstrate that he cannot mean them. His hands are so blood-soaked that it is hypocritical of him or anyone else to pretend otherwise.

Nevertheless, unless he is telling us that American children are more deserving than children in Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen - as a family man with connections in Africa could he really believe that? - then he has to start making changes which are within his power to prevent even more young lives being lost needlessly. He will face a huge battle against the gun lobby in the United States, so he is unlikely to achieve anything in that respect. US support for Israel, however, is within his power to stop tomorrow, or make it much more conditional on Israel obeying the law like other responsible nations, if he wants to. That is the real question today as the world contemplates the massacre in Connecticut. Does President Obama really mean what he says on this and similar incidents? The evidence suggests that the answer is no, and the world - America included - will remain a dangerous place for children and their parents because an impotent US president won't, indeed can't, do anything about it.

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Computers - next target

~ Aircraft manufacturer Boeing have created a weapon that can knock out computers
~ The missile is thought to be able to penetrate bunkers and caves
~ Experts warn, in the wrong hands, could bring Western cities to their knees

Down the years and across the universe, the heroes of science-fiction classics from Dan Dare to Star Wars and The Matrix have fought intergalactic battles with weapons that wipe out enemy electronics at the touch of a button.

Now scientists have turned fantasy into reality by developing a missile that targets buildings with microwaves that disable computers but don’t harm people.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing successfully tested the weapon on a one-hour flight during which it knocked out the computers of an entire military compound in the Utah desert.

Pre-programmed filghtpath: Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has successfully tested a missile which knocked out an entire military compound in the Utah desert

It is thought the missile could penetrate the bunkers and caves believed to be hiding Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities. But experts have warned that, in the wrong hands, the technology could be used to bring Western cities such as London to their knees.

During Boeing’s experiment, the missile flew low over the Utah Test and Training Range, discharging electromagnetic pulses on to seven targets, permanently shutting down their electronics.

Boeing said that the test was so successful even the camera recording it was disabled.

Codenamed the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), it is the first time a missile with electromagnetic pulse capability has been tested.

For security reasons, Boeing declined to release film of the test, but instead issued an artist’s impression of it on video. In the clip, a stealth aircraft deploys a missile that emits radio waves from its undercarriage which knock out the computer systems inside the buildings below.

The company did release real film showing a row of computers that can be seen shutting down when the electromagnetic pulse is switched on.

Although the project is shrouded in secrecy, experts believe the missile is equipped with an electromagnetic pulse cannon. This uses a super-powerful microwave oven to generate a concentrated beam of energy which causes voltage surges in electronic equipment, rendering them useless before surge protectors have the chance to react.

Keith Coleman, CHAMP programme manager for Boeing’s prototype arm Phantom Works, said the technology marked ‘a new era in modern warfare’.

He added: ‘In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.

‘We hit every target we wanted and made science fiction into science fact. When the computers went out, it actually took out the cameras as well. It was fantastic.’

The project has cost £24 million and has been developed on behalf of the US Air Force Research Laboratory following a request from the Pentagon four years ago.

Lead test engineer Peter Finlay said: ‘We’re not quite at the place where the Star Trek and Star Wars movies are but this is definitely an advancement in technology able to give us an opportunity to do things we could not do before.’ James Dodd, vice-president of Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft, said there was a real need for a weapon that could knock out a target but not cause harm to people and structures.

He said: ‘We know this has capabilities and impact. We’re trying to see if we can get it implemented sooner rather than later.’

However, experts fear that the project could create an arms race, with countries scrambling to build their own electromagnetic pulse weapons.

Boeing CHAMP - Counter - Electronics High - Power Missile Project  - video

Professor Trevor Taylor, Professorial Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the Western world would be much more vulnerable to such an attack because of our increased reliance on electronics. He added: ‘This is a challenging area in political and military terms. Ideally there would have been an arms-control agreement to cover this field, because once technology is actually developed, control becomes harder.

‘The historical record shows that important technologies developed in one country are developed elsewhere within a relatively short period – look what happened with regard to the USSR and nuclear weapons.

‘Should the US be known to have developed such a technology to the production stage, it would drive others to try to act similarly.

‘Western countries are more dependent on electronics-based IT than others and would be vulnerable to extensive disruption.’

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Inhumane control

In a country where women are denied the right to vote, are not allowed to drive, and are basically treated like children, Saudi Arabia has taken its next giant leap backwards by rolling out an SMS electronic tracking system that alerts male "guardians" by text message whenever women under their protection leave the country. The development has been met with outrage by reformers, who have turned to Twitter to voice their concern.

Saudi Arabia is a complete mess as far as women's rights is concerned. It ranks 130th out of 134 countries for gender equality  — a nation where only 16.5% of women make up the workforce. As devout followers of Sharia Law, all women, regardless of age, require a male guardian and cannot leave the country without written consent.

And now, judging by a flurry of incoming accounts, it's clear that the country has covertly implemented a new system that will further serve to strengthen its control over women.

It all started last week when a Saudi man travelling with his wife began to get text messages on his phone from the immigration authorities alerting him to the fact that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh (she was listed as a dependent on his national identity card). Concerned, he contacted Manal al-Sherif, a women's rights campaigner in Saudi Arabia, who then broadcast the news over Twitter.

Al-Sherif made headlines last year when she was arrested after uploading a video to YouTube in which she could be seen driving.

                                   Manal al-Sherif ended in jail just because she was driving a car

And as it turned out, the text messages weren't an isolated case. Similar accounts started to pour in, strongly suggesting that a new system had been rolled-out without so much as a peep from the Saudi authorities. It now appears that every guardian whose dependent has a passport is receiving a text after cross border crossings.

In response, the Ministry of the Interior has denied the allegations, saying it's not intended to connect women with their guardians. And according to the Riyadh Bureau,  the system has been in place since 2010, but now the service works without having to register with the ministry. It claims that the system is part of a larger e-Government plan to use technology in order to facilitate access to its services — such as electronic travel permits (thus replacing the need for "yellow slips").

 Former written permission to leave the country once it is now replaced with electronic control of the movement 

But while some see it as a convenience, others interpret is yet another way to exert control. It's becoming evident that Saudi Arabia has entered into a new era in which it's increasingly turning to high-tech solutions to enforce its laws. But as Wired reports, the issue has put the plight of Saudi women into the spotlight:

"For us, it's good to use this thing to go back to the main subject — treating women as minors," says Al-Sharif. "Before, I used to have to have a piece of paper for when I left the country saying my guardian had given me written permission. It could be for one-off travel or as long as the passport was valid. The Gulf used to make so much fun of us — 'how can you treat women this way?' they'd ask when we'd travel there. So what they did was start showing it electronically. Now it's invisible; we don't need to carry the piece of paper."  

It seems that in a rapidly changing world, Saudi Arabia has chosen to keep up with the times by concealing its controls to outsiders while ensuring technology makes those same controls as efficient as they are subtle.

                                              Women from advertising are simply deleted 

At the same time, it has also prompted a number of critics to express their angst over Twitter — what is the only real voice available to them. The French Press Agency  recently compiled some of the highlights :

"Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!" read one post.

"Why don't you cuff your women with tracking ankle bracelets too?" wrote Israa.

"Why don't we just install a microchip into our women to track them around?" joked another.

"If I need an SMS to let me know my wife is leaving Saudi Arabia, then I'm either married to the wrong woman or need a psychiatrist," tweeted Hisham.

"This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned," said Bishr, the columnist.

"It would have been better for the government to busy itself with finding a solution for women subjected to domestic violence" than track their movements into and out of the country.

Women in Saudi Arabia cannot vote or be elected to high political positions. However, King Abdullah recently declared that women will be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly. So perhaps reforms are coming — but given how far behind Saudi Arabia is compared to other nations, it's clear women still have a long road ahead.

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