Mend ways, Trump tells U.N.

UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump on Monday opened his first visit to the United Nations since taking office with a polite but firm call for the 72-year-old institution to overhaul itself and a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

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In a meeting with counterparts from around the world, Trump said the U.N. had grown too bureaucratic and ineffective and should reorient its approach. He complained that spending and the staff at the U.N. had grown enormously over the years but that “we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

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Still, he pledged U.S. support for the world body he had excoriated as a candidate, and his criticisms were more restrained than in years past.

“That’s why we commend the secretary-general and his call for the United Nations to focus more on people and less on bureaucracy,” Trump said, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sitting beside him. “We seek a United Nations that regains the trust of the people around the world. In order to achieve this, the United Nations must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistleblowers and focus on results rather than on process.”

He added that any overhaul should ensure that no single member “shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that’s militarily or financially,” a sore point for many American conservatives who bristle at the share of U.N. costs borne by the United States. Trump said nothing about whether he would pursue his proposal to cut U.S. funding for the organization.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting its position as the world’s largest economy. It pays 25 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget and over 28 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget.

The short remarks at a forum on U.N. overhauls were a precursor to today’s main event, when Trump will address the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, a speech awaited by world leaders concerned about what the president’s “America first” vision means for the future of the world body.

Trump riffed on his campaign slogan when asked to preview his central message to the General Assembly, saying: “I think the main message is ‘make the United Nations great’ — not ‘again.’ ‘Make the United Nations great.'”

“Such tremendous potential, and I think we’ll be able to do this,” he added.

But even as the president chastised the U.N., he pledged that the United States would “be partners in your work” to make the organization a more effective force for peace across the globe.

He later met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the first of a string of sessions he will conduct with counterparts during four days in New York, and used the occasion to once again hint that he could pull out of the Iran deal negotiated by President Barack Obama, the other four permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Netanyahu planned to press Trump to either revise the agreement or scrap it.

Asked by reporters whether he would withdraw, Trump said, “You’ll see very soon. You’ll be seeing very soon.” He added: “We’re talking about it constantly. Constantly. We’re talking about plans constantly.”

The meeting with Netanyahu was followed by another with President Emmanuel Macron of France where the two traded warm words and recalled Trump’s visit to a Bastille Day military parade in Paris in July. He mused about ordering up a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to rival the one he witnessed in Paris.

Trump also hosted a dinner Monday night with leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Argentina. Venezuela’s deepening economic and political crisis was under discussion.

The U.S. president also lashed out against Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, calling his presidency “disastrous.” He said that people in Venezuela “are starving and the country is collapsing.”

The U.S. “has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable, and we’re prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on a path to imposing authoritarian rule,” Trump said. He thanked the Latin American leaders for “condemning the regime.”

Brazil’s President Michel Temer said all leaders “agreed on maintaining pressure on Venezuela’s government” but that further sanctions on the country should be “verbal.”

FOCUS ON IRAN

The president has until mid-October to certify under a U.S. law whether Iran is complying with the deal, a certification he has made twice already this year but that he has told advisers he does not want to make again. If he were to refuse to do so, it could potentially unravel the agreement.

The meeting with Netanyahu focused on Iran, although Trump also repeated his commitment to finding peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. “I think there’s a good chance that it could happen,” he said. “Most people would say there’s no chance whatsoever.” He will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday.

Trump and Netanyahu discussed Iran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East and spoke about the need to prevent Iran from establishing any deep roots or organizing in Syria, according to a readout provided by Brian Hook of the State Department.

In a harsh message to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors compliance with the nuclear agreement, Trump on Monday warned that the United States could withdraw if the accord is not properly policed. “We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal,” Trump said in a message read by Rick Perry, the energy secretary, at the agency’s annual meeting in Vienna, according to news reports.

The United States asserts that Iran is obligated to open its military sites to agency inspection on demand if the agency suspects unreported nuclear activities at any of them. That’s something Tehran rejects, and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi urged the agency and its head, Yukiya Amano, to “resist such unacceptable demands.”

Iran has accused Trump of failing to comply with the deal by undercutting it and slapping sanctions on Tehran for other activities such as ballistic missile tests, an assertion it repeated in Vienna on Monday.

“The American administration’s overtly hostile attitude and actual foot-dragging policies and measures aim at undermining the nuclear deal and blocking Iran’s legitimate benefits from its full implementation,” Salehi said, according to news reports.

The U.S. stance has worried allies such as France, as well as Russia.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that tearing up the accord would be a blow to efforts to limit nuclear proliferation and “we’re trying to convince President Trump of the pertinence of this view.” All the signs are that Iran is respecting its obligations under the deal, he said at a press conference in New York.

When asked about the U.S. leader and Macron’s meeting with him, Le Drian said France would stress the value of the Iran deal for nuclear nonproliferation and international security. He suggested that France may be open to an extension of nuclear limits on Iran past 2025, one of the main demands of critics of the deal.

“I’ll try to convince President Trump,” that the deal can be rigorously enforced now, Le Drian said. Even if a follow-on deal or other changes are contemplated, “we need to acknowledge the validity of the agreement as it is.”

Russia opposes any renegotiation of the Iranian nuclear agreement, said a senior member of the Russian delegation to the U.N. meeting. “To go back on an agreement that was the result of colossal diplomatic efforts without any justification just because the new U.S. president doesn’t like it would be extremely dangerous,” Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian upper house of parliament, told reporters in New York.

WORDS TONED DOWN

The president’s comments to the U.N. meeting on Monday morning lasted only four minutes and included none of the criticism he had directed at foreign institutions in the past. As recently as December, after winning the presidential election but before being sworn in, Trump dismissed the U.N. as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

The tension has gone both ways. Last month, the U.N. human rights chief chastised Trump for his repeated attacks on the news media, saying that they could incite violence and set a bad example for other countries.

No mention was made during Trump’s opening appearance Monday of the global crises that the U.N. has rung alarm bells about: attacks on the Rohingya minority in Burma, climate change, the nuclear threat in North Korea, and a record 65 million people displaced from their homes.

Aides have said Trump’s address today will stress “sovereignty and accountability,” a contrast to his predecessors who used the annual occasion to rally joint action on issues like terrorism, weapons proliferation and climate change.

The cooperative relationship — at least in a few key areas — can be attributed to the relationship forged between two seasoned politicians: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor, and Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister who, like Trump, took office in January. While many UN officials watched with horror as the Trump administration vowed to slash spending on foreign aid, including the UN, by about one-third, Guterres and Haley found a way to target troubled peacekeeping efforts.

Those programs, in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, had long been criticized for not protecting civilians and, in some cases, sexually exploiting the very populations they were meant to defend.

Source :  Democratic Gazette

About Behaviour                     About Attitude

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Donald Trump Attacks U.S. Spies, Will They Strike Back?

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Ex-intelligence officials say the president-elect calling the CIA “Nazi Germany” is close to a declaration of war.

President Richard Nixon didn’t trust the CIA on the Vietnam War. President George W. Bush didn’t much like what the CIA had to say about the war in Iraq.

But until Donald Trump, no future commander in chief has compared America’s spies to Nazis.

“I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out there,” Trump said, implying members of the U.S. intelligence community were behind the leak of a former British spy’s opposition research on Trump.

“That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done,” he said at his first news conference as president elect, just days ahead of his inauguration.

The broadside against the U.S. intelligence community shows Trump’s suspicion that the CIA and other agencies are a tool of the outgoing Obama administration, delivering whatever its political masters want to hear—and leaking material damaging to his future presidency.

“Trump is… pointing to the top of the organization and saying it’s become politicized,” said Peter Hoekstra, a former House Intelligence Committee chairman and current Trump ally.

Hoekstra, who has discussed the intelligence community with the president elect, said Trump blames Obama appointees, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.

“He knows that they got Benghazi wrong, they got ISIS wrong, they got Egypt wrong with the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s a very healthy skeptic of intelligence.”

Late Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement saying he’d spoken to the president elect, and expressed dismay over the leaks.

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“We both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security,” Clapper said, adding that he did not believe the leaks came from his people. Clapper said they discussed the controversial private security company document, which he emphasized was not verified by U.S. intelligence agencies agencies, but had been circulated among the press and Congress for months.

“We did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security,” the emailed statement said.

That may help tamp down bruised feelings in the intelligence community, but several former top intelligence officials told The Daily Beast that Trump’s comments Wednesday moved well beyond skepticism—and closer to a declaration of bureaucratic war.

“I served under seven presidents—I can’t remember it ever being this bad,” John Rizzo, the CIA’s top lawyer after the attacks of 9/11, told The Daily Beast.

Another high-ranking former intelligence officer called Trump’s remarks Wednesday “beyond that pale,” and said if Trump keeps attacking the agency, the message they’ll receive is that they have to tailor the news to what he wants to hear.

“You’re sending bad signals that ‘I’m coming in, and you’re going to speak my truth,’” the former officer said.

The president elect’s latest outburst follows the leak of a salacious 35-page document, which alleges that Russian operatives claim to have “compromising personal and financial information” on Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported it was written by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. Calls to the business were not answered.

The document was published by BuzzFeed on Tuesday night without verification, after CNN  first reported that it had been briefed to Trump, President Barack Obama, and lawmakers as part of the intelligence community’s investigation into Russian attempts to influence the U.S. election. Both news organizations came in for by-name criticism by Trump. But at least he didn’t compare them to Hitler’s troops.

“I did find it stunning that he… seemingly equated what he perceived to be the leaks by the intelligence community as something that would happen in Nazi Germany,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo came in for plenty of harsh criticism himself over the years for signing off on Bush-era harsh interrogation methods and black sites, which he described in his memoir Company Man. “Nothing approaching…these kind of gratuitous swipes at the integrity and ascribing political motives to the intelligence community just before taking office,” he told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

This tension between the future president and his spies is more than just back-room wrangling. It could have a major, real-world impact, said Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the few lawmakers willing to comment on the remarks. “At some point he may come before the nation to lay out his case for a specific action he is taking abroad, and do so on the basis of information he has received from the intelligence community,” Schiff said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “By mentioning the intelligence community in the same sentence as Nazi Germany, President-elect Trump is undermining the authority and credibility that he will need as President.”

“We can only go up from here,” said former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Carmen Medina. “This tabloid conflict gets in the way of a serious conversation—long overdue—about how the IC [Intelligence Community] should best support the President. I will commit sacrilege and say that Trump isn’t crazy when he says he doesn’t need an intel briefing every day,” referring to the incoming’s preference for fewer spy reports.

“All that said, Trump is demeaning the professional integrity of intelligence professionals,” she added. “Nothing good will come of this.”

“The dialogue is full of misunderstanding:  this is not a real intelligence document and the IC did not ‘ leak’ it,” said former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, calling Trump’s harsh comments “regrettable.”

None of the seasoned intelligence officials thought much of the 35-page memo, calling it poorly sourced gossip that wouldn’t stand up to the rigors of American or British spy agencies.

“It reads like a high-priced detective gathering evidence for a high-profile divorce case,” sniffed one former senior CIA operator.

“There’s nothing about their reliability levels, nothing about levels of confidence in the sources, so it’s just very raw intelligence,” added another.

“It’s a lot of unsubstantiated allegations that are very explosive and [Trump] has a right to be mad about it. But he’s shooting the wrong target,” another of the former officials said.

Yet every single intelligence professional who read the document said they would likely have made the same call—to share it with Trump and others, if only to inoculate them from the surprise of having the memo break in the media.

“Knowing this was floating around Washington, they had to give him the heads up,” said one of the officials. “If he had not been told, it would look like they were withholding information.”

Trump adviser Hoekstra said the blowback is not aimed at the intelligence rank and file.

“Every time I went anywhere, I met with case officers. They felt the Obama administration was throwing them under the bus,” Hoekstra said, describing how Obama left open the door to prosecute CIA employees. “This is a president that came in in 2009 and let the attorney general begin an investigation of those folks who did enhanced interrogations.”

Hoekstra includes in that former CIA case officer Sabrina de Sousa who is just days away from being extradited from Portugal to Italy, to serve a four-year sentence for a botched CIA extradition operation—a case he hopes the Trump administration will act on.

He said the simmering sense of betrayal is also felt by NSA officers doing the listening programs who felt like they got “hung out to dry” when the Obama administration failed to vigorously defend their actions after the Snowden leaks.

Trump’s choice of former Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana to lead the DNI, and Republican Congressman from Kansas Mark Pompeo to take over the CIA have been welcomed by intelligence professionals, according to multiple current and former officials.

But some said if these verbal attacks continue, that could change.

“They are starting with a reservoir of good will. But their jobs are going to be unnecessarily harder if the commander in chief keeps on with these attacks,” said former CIA lawyer Rizzo. “If these remarks persist it will clearly have a corrosive effect on the morale.”

“I winced when he lodged yet another unsupported accusation regarding the weird Russian dossier,” said Andy Liepman, 30-year CIA veteran and currently RAND senior analyst “Who knows where it came from, what is true and what isn’t, or who leaked it?” He said he was “modestly hopeful” that Pompeo and Coats would quiet his suspicions about the community. “I think we have all been forced to get used to the President Elect’s jarring style of praising in one breath and attacking in the next—that might work in the business world, or even in politics (clearly it worked) but it won’t work as well with the men and women of the intelligence community.”

“I’ve spoken with people at the working level, and at the end of the day, I don’t think it will have much of an impact of how we conduct operations,” said a former CIA official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss conversations with serving officers.

“There are just as many people who are for Trump as are against him in the IC. They may not like Trump’s lack of refinement, but they are still conservatives,” he said.

“They are willing to say it’s growing pains, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of doing our jobs.”

“These bad vibes should die down once everyone’s in place in the new administration and they have to get work on concrete problems,” said McLaughlin. “The breach, if that is what we have, will heal.”

And despite all the name-calling on Wednesday, there was one peaceful sign for the president-elect and his intelligence team. Trump finally accepted the conclusions of the intelligence community that Russia did try to influence the U.S. election—though he quickly added that other nations like China are also guilty of attempting to hack U.S. institutions.

For months, Trump has been trying to blame someone—anyone—other than the Russians for the politically-motivated hacks and leaks. The he got an intelligence briefing late last week. Perhaps that’s what changed his mind.

Source : Daily Beast

U.S. National Security Chiefs Talk Leadership, Partners

Rice, Flynn, Graham, Kerry Offer Agendas at ‘Passing the Baton’

By:
USIP Staff
The national security advisors to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump stood shoulder-to-shoulder on a stage at the U.S. Institute of Peace yesterday and shook hands to a standing ovation at a two-day conference on foreign and national security policy. In speeches, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her designated successor, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, struck a tone of cooperation on the transition between administrations. The conference, called “Passing the Baton,” included Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Lindsey Graham and hundreds of incoming, outgoing and former officials as well as independent experts.
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Discussions at the conference focused on laying foundations for a bipartisan foreign policy after an extraordinarily divisive election campaign. Rice and Flynn outlined what they said has been intensive work to ensure a smooth transition of national security functions with the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Trump. Rice said her office “has produced more than 100 memos” for Flynn’s incoming team. Flynn voiced gratitude for what he said was Rice’s effort “to help us be as well-prepared as we can be before inauguration day.”

Flynn praised Rice, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others for what he said was their under-recognized sacrifice and their work across party lines to protect U.S. security. Rice made what effectively was a farewell  address in her role coordinating national security and declared her commitment to Flynn’s success as essential for continued U.S. security. Turning toward her successor, she said, “General Flynn, I am rooting hard for you.”

“To lead doesn’t mean you have to lead alone.” – USIP Board Chairman and former National Security advisor Stephen J. Hadley.

Kerry, speaking earlier, described a different pace in the transition at the State Department, saying it is “going pretty smoothly because there’s not an enormous amount of it.” Speaking a day before President-elect Trump’s nominee to replace him, longtime Exxon Mobile Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, was to begin his confirmation hearings, Kerry said he hoped to meet Tillerson “in the near term.”

“There are some people [from the Trump transition team] who’ve been in the building for a period of time, but quite candidly I think there has not been a lot of high-level exchange” so far, Kerry said.

Kerry expressed concern about the negative tenor of U.S. politics and defended the Obama administration’s accomplishments on foreign policy.

“The United States is more engaged in more places, simultaneously dealing with more conflicts, than at any time in American history, and I believe with consequence, with greater outcomes,” Kerry said. He cited “changing the policy to Cuba, helping Colombia be able to get to a peace after 50 years of war, working with Argentina and other countries to come in from the cold, dealing with North Korea, with China, working on the South China Sea, asserting freedom of navigation rights in the region, and standing up simultaneously to bring Korea, Japan together to change the relationship.” He also cited the 186-nation climate accord and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Seven weeks after an election that raised discussion of a potential rise in U.S. isolationism, officials past, present and future said during conference sessions that their focus is on how U.S. engagement abroad can be reinforced and reshaped to handle new or rising threats. The risks outlined ranged from the violent upheavals of failed and ‘fragile’ states, to cyber-attacks, to nuclear proliferation, to an erosion in the global security system of the past 70 years.

Flynn, who was among several aides to President-elect Trump to attend the conference, said the discussions underscored “the global leadership that the United States must demonstrate, and global engagement around the world that, whether we like it or not, the world demands.”

A Theme: U.S. ‘Shared Leadership’

In private meetings the evening before the public event, about 80 former or current national security officials and independent experts discussed the coming U.S role  in the world with Flynn and other incoming Trump aides. There and in yesterday’s public conference, “one constant theme was ‘America needs to lead in the world,’” said former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley.

While the 2016 election included analysts’ assertion that “the American people are tired of bearing the burden of leadership,” Hadley noted a just-published study of U.S. public attitudes by the University of Maryland’s public policy school that showed eight in 10 Americans “should play a shared leadership role” in “cooperative efforts” with other nations.

“To lead doesn’t mean you have to lead alone,” said Hadley, who is chairman of USIP’s board of directors. “Americans, I think from this, want America to lead with others, and they want others to do their fair share.”  Debate during and after the election has included the question whether America is “doing too much to pursue global interests and not enough to pursue America’s more narrowly defined interests,” he said.

In the University of Maryland study “most Americans looked at that distinction and saw it as a false choice,” said Hadley. “Seven in 10 agreed with the argument that the United States should look beyond its own self-interests and do what’s best for the world as a whole, because in the long run this will probably help make the kind of world that is best for the United States. And you know, I’ve always thought the American people have great common sense.”

‘Strengthening the Platform’

Another thread running throughout the conference, raised by speakers from across the U.S. domestic political spectrum, was America’s need to strengthen the internal foundations from which it exercises its role abroad. Discussion on “strengthening the domestic platform” had three parts, said Hadley: “strengthening our economy, getting our politics to work, restoring our military. … That’s what the American people want us to do at home, and it also gives us a platform for being influential overseas.”

Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, reflected some of those points, urging a rebuilding of U.S. military capacity and more U.S. gas production from shale rock to boost the economy. Cotton and Admiral James Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO who is now a dean at Tufts University, urged reviews of the U.S. nuclear weapons system and stockpile.

Still, Hadley said, “it’s not just the military, and I hope we won’t strengthen our military at the expense of the non-military instruments of power, which was a thematic today. This is our diplomats, this is our development officials… and the various NGO partners that help us.”

Albright emphasized the imbalance between America’s spending on military defense and its investment in the “soft power” tools to prevent or stabilize crises abroad: diplomacy, the United Nations and other international institutions, foreign assistance and development work. Such spending on diplomacy and foreign aid (known as the “150 account” in the federal budget) comes to $51 billion per year, compared with a military budget of between $600 billion and $700 billion. Albright, a Democrat, was echoed by Graham, a South Carolina Republican. “The 150 account is 1 percent of the budget” and yields great returns in advancing stability and U.S. interests abroad, said Graham. “If ‘defense’ doesn’t mean the 150 account, you made a huge mistake.”

Challenges: Systemic and Strategic

In several panel discussions, officials and analysts discussed the challenges, whether obvious or too-little noticed, that are likely to require U.S. attention in the coming years of the Trump administration. For many, this includes the implications of a weakening in the seven-decade-old international system that the United States led in creating amid the rubble of World War II. And speakers underscored the need for a bipartisan foreign policy.

Foreign policy challenges don’t present themselves “in four- or eight-year segments,” said Albright, who served as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.

“Our national-security toolbox is set up to deal with states,” said Albright. But now “we are living in a completely changed world.”

That international system, she said, is being challenged both by states—notably an assertive Russia and China and a Europe whose cohesion has weakened—and by small groups or individuals who can wield outsized influence through technologies of computers and weapons.

“The world won’t get more orderly without U.S. leadership,” said Frederick Kempe, president of the Atlantic Council. “Can we save, can we adjust, can we reinvigorate” the international system, he asked. He compared the inauguration of President-elect Trump to that in 1961 of President John Kennedy, noting the men’s shared lack of foreign policy experience. To strengthen America’s hand, Kempe advocated strong resistance to efforts by Russia to divide and weaken the European Union. There can be “no strong America with a weak Europe,” he said.

“It used to be strong states that threatened us, now it’s fragile states that threaten us,” said Hadley. “Fragile” states—where illegitimate or ineffective governance has left populations’ needs unmet and opened room for extremist groups and violent conflicts—were a recurring theme in the conference. Hadley, Graham and others voiced support for focused investment in strengthening fragile states’ abilities to govern well. To eventually end violent extremism these states must “offer a hope to their people to achieve their aspirations in life so they are not susceptible to a call to achieve their aspirations in death,” Hadley said.

Stavridis, who is dean of Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, cited the threats from cyber-attacks, whether by Russia or others. Vast and basic functions of the U.S. economy and security system are vulnerable, from banking networks to the power grid to the global positioning system (GPS) used for navigation and by the military, he and other speakers said. Stavridis repeated a call he has made for a cabinet-level position to coordinate U.S. cybersecurity.

Jacob Sullivan, who helped lead Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and was national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, said the biggest strategic threat is “that terrorists get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and cause a catastrophic event in the United States.” He said the danger must be confronted both through counter-terrorism and through continued work to prevent the proliferation of nuclear risks.

“The only other challenge that comes close to that level of potential absolute catastrophe, and over the long term even exceeds it, is the threat of climate change,” Sullivan said. Policy advocates who focus on the accumulating threat of global warming are often derided by others “as somehow you’re soft and fuzzy-headed.”

As the conference wound down, Hadley ticked off the themes of strengthening U.S. domestic foundations for policy, and of responding to the range of security challenges discussed during the day.

“This is a huge agenda,” he said. “But if we really are going to have the full toolset the president should have, we need to be thinking about all those elements.”

Source : USIP

Passing the Baton 2017: America’s Role in the World

As the United States prepares to inaugurate its 45th president, the U.S. Institute of Peace again will hold its Passing the Baton conference—a review, during the transition between administrations, of global challenges confronting our nation. USIP will convene Cabinet-level and other senior foreign policy and national security figures from the outgoing and incoming administrations as part of two days of meetings January 9 and 10. They will be joined by top officials from previous administrations, thought leaders and other foreign policy experts.

Photo courtesy of the The New York Times/Stephen Crowley

This third Passing the Baton seeks vital common ground on U.S. foreign policy. In accord with USIP’s congressional mandate, it will advance informed, bipartisan problem-solving on threats to U.S. national interests and international peace—from wars and extremist violence to global environmental, nuclear, cyber-security and other threats. In hosting this event, USIP is partnering with five prominent think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute, the Atlantic Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for American Progress and the Heritage Foundation. Media partners for the Passing the Baton are Politico and Sirius XM Radio.

USIP first held Passing the Baton in 2001 as part of the transition between the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 2009, the conference took place as President Bush transferred power to President Barack Obama.

Passing the Baton will begin January 9 with private meetings, including members of the outgoing and incoming foreign policy teams. These will be hosted by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former secretaries of defense Chuck Hagel and William Perry, former national security advisors Stephen Hadley and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

A conference the following day, open to news media and on the record, will include Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials from the current and former administrations, as well as President-elect Donald Trump’s designated national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and his designated deputy, K.T. McFarland. Speakers also will include members of Congress and policy experts. At the day’s close, National Security Advisor Rice will speak before ceremonially “passing the baton” to her designated successor, Lt. Gen. Flynn.

Source : USIP

California becomes heart of anti-Trump resistance

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California’s political leaders are gearing up to lead progressive resistance to President-elect Donald Trump.

The Golden State, where Hillary Clinton beat Trump by more than 4 million votes, is a center of political power for the left.

It’s the home of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, two industries that tilt to the left. By itself, the state makes up 13 percent of the nation’s GDP.

A powerful group of Democratic politicians call the state home, including both of the state’s senators, a liberal legend in Gov. Jerry Brown and the nation’s first and only female Speaker in Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

California is also home to a growing Latino population, which means it will be ground zero for Trump’s immigration agenda.  About 40 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic.

“California can and will continue to lead on policy,” said Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state.He said his state is ready to oppose Trump on federal policies that would hurt California, and on nominees such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican and immigration hardliner nominated to lead the Department of Justice.

Outgoing Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), appointed earlier this month to succeed Sen. Kamala Harris as attorney general, will lead the local charge in California’s immigration fight.

Becerra has already vowed to fight federal immigration enforcement in his new role through legislation and litigation.

“My sense is we’re not going to stop being California,” Becerra told The Hill. “We’ve got a very progressive group of leaders from Governor Brown, to our state legislative leaders [State Assembly Speaker] Anthony Rendon, to [State Senate President] Kevin de Leon.”

California mayors have also pledged to resist aggressive immigration enforcement. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been adamant in keeping L.A. as a sanctuary city, and he announced Monday a fund to defend immigrants from federal deportation action.

The state’s political leaders are signaling they will be a part of the resistance to Trump’s pick for attorney general. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 24-year California senator, will be the ranking Democrat next year on the Judiciary Committee, which will consider the Sessions nomination.

Becerra said all legal options are on the table when it comes to fighting to defend California’s policies, including litigation and political action.

“We’re gonna move, so long as we do things according to the U.S. and California constitutions, we’re gonna move,” he said. “I think what makes it an interesting or changing dynamic is if someone tries to stop us from doing what we’re by law allowed to do.”

Padilla, an outspoken voting rights advocate who already pushed through aggressive policies to expand California’s voter registration, vowed to defend voting rights at a national level.

Turnout in California was 73.5 percent, the state’s second-highest in history. It’s nearly 20 percent higher to the 54.4 percent who turned out to vote across the country, according to the United States Elections Project.

Some believe the higher turnout reflects the interest taken in the election by Hispanics who worried that if Trump won, he’d follow through on his promises to build a wall on the border and to start mass deportations.

Trump has complained about voter fraud in California, saying this contributed to his loss in the popular vote.

Some of Trump’s supporters have suggested illegal immigrants contributed to Clinton’s tally in the Golden State.

Padilla slammed Trump’s comments about fraud last month, saying they were unsubstantiated, reckless and unbecoming of a president-elect.

“It appears that Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him,” he said.

While Trump and California have been at odds — Trump supporters have noted he would have won the popular vote if the Golden State’s vote totals were excluded from the national vote — California politicians say they are willing to work with the president-elect where their interests aligned.

“If they take actions we approve of I’ll be the first to applaud,” Padilla said.

“As Leader Pelosi has mentioned, we will work and engage with the President-elect where we can,” Jorge Vargas, a spokesman for Pelosi, wrote in an email.

“However, House Democrats will confront where we must. We won’t stand idly by as Speaker [Rep. Paul ] Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Trump Administration attempt to attack Social Security and Medicare while at the same time assaulting the healthcare of 20 million Americans.”

With California as a progressive bulwark, the potential clash between the country’s largest state and the federal government could pit the country’s two largest bureaucracies against each other from opposite ends of the political spectrum on almost every issue.

But Kenneth Romero, executive director of the bipartisan National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, said the conflict is nothing new.

“It’s not the first time a state resists federal policy,” he said.

He argued that California’s local leaders are likely to use a pillar of the GOP identity in making their case against Trump’s agenda: states rights.

Source : The Hill

Social Media and “Fake News” from a free speech perspective

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Recently, Facebook has been blamed for spreading “fake news” and contributing to the election of Donald Trump as the next US president. There have since been calls for Facebook to take action to address the issue and be treated as a media company in this regard. While tech giants hold considerable power over media and civic space, assigning them the mission of sorting out what constitutes “true” information is a dangerous route to take. What’s more, in the complex world we live in, even journalists and other contributors to the news should never be held liable for reporting “fake news” unless they have failed to dedicate reasonable efforts to verify information.

Reactions to the recent US presidential elections or the Brexit referendum are dominated by a sense that facts and rational debate have lost relevance in politics and public discourse. Lies seem to have become the decisive factor in today’s electoral contests. In an effort to preserve whatever is left from the democratic model of society, influential voices have called for a resolute battle to be fought against the viral spread of “fake” stories that infect populations with “dangerous” opinions. However, from the perspective of international law on freedom of expression, the issue of “fake news” must be approached with caution, mindful that prohibition of “fake” or “false” news has often served as an instrument to control the media and restrict editorial freedom.

The real problem with “fake news”

There’s no denying that misinformation exists. Unscrupulous businesses will publish deceitful reports to attract advertising income – to a lesser degree, this is also a preoccupation for certain media outlets that rely on sensationalist headlines. Others might publish lies to influence audiences in the pursuit of other political or economic objectives. In certain circumstances, however, the publication of deceitful information can cause serious harm. It could damage an individual’s reputation, violate their privacy or trigger disastrous collective reactions.

Nonetheless, restrictions on “fake news” are not the appropriate way to deal with these consequences. Existing laws on defamation, legal provisions that protect the right to privacy, and laws on public order that allow police forces to control the possible consequences of public outrage already provide some protection from negative impacts. All of these laws, of course, must respect the requirements of international standards on freedom of expression: in short, they need to be written with clarity to allow individuals to foresee the consequences of their actions, and they must be proportionate to the ill that they seek to counter. Even less restrictive of freedom of expression, the detailed prescriptions of professional ethics and mechanisms of self-regulation such as press councils also serve to encourage media and journalists to publish reliable and accurate information.

By contrast with finely-tailored legislation, any legal prohibition of “fake” news would inevitably create a chilling effect upon the media and anyone that contributes to public debate. Facts are by their nature complex and intricate, to the point that it is truly impossible to avoid slight inaccuracies in reporting. Demanding that journalists only publish reports that are absolutely true would simply be impractical. International case law has indeed recognised that journalists contributing to public debates on topics of general interest have the right to a certain degree of exaggeration or even provocation.

Enacting a legal duty of truth would provide public authorities with a powerful instrument to control journalistic activities: allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence critical voices. Journalists or human rights defenders could be sent to prison on accusations of disseminating untrue statements about alleged wrongdoings by the government. Activists that use purposely misleading information to raise awareness through provocative stunts, such as the Yes Men, or satirical publications, such as The Onion or The New Yorker’s Borowitz Report, would be destined to a similar fate.

Like ‘hate speech’ or ‘terrorism’, the notion of “fake news” is too vague to prevent subjective and arbitrary interpretation. It would not be much reassurance to have private entities like Facebook making these assessments instead of public authorities – not to mention that these businesses may be subject to the influence of non-democratic governments in certain countries where they operate.

Social media and the news

Even if self-regulation and proportionate legislation might be sufficient to deal with cases of false information in the media, isn’t it true that social media platforms create echo chambers that can amplify the noise of fake news to unprecedented volumes? People who use online platforms as their main sources of news are surrounded by stories and rumours disseminated by others who share similar views to them. They lose contact with the vast diversity of opinions and ideas that exist in our complex societies, and they may even lose touch with good old-fashioned, factual reality.

One might first observe that the traditional media sphere has in itself always served as an echo chamber, as mainstream media companies routinely focus on the same few stories of the day. One might also note that the digital age has rendered the verification of facts easier than it ever was: manipulation of digital material can be investigated, and the Internet provides the infrastructure for checking sources and facts. Websites like Snopes or Hoaxbuster even specialise in debunking rumours. One must also acknowledge that social media platforms are incredibly efficient enablers of the individual right to freedom of expression.

But as J. Simon recently wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review: ‘Of course, there are many, many benefits to our current media environment. There is more news and information available more easily than at any time in human history. But there are downsides as well. Not only is it impossible to analyse and process the information, but trying to do so produces collective stress. Scientists studying human behaviour artificially create high-stress situations by bombarding their subjects with information. This environment is now replicated in our daily lives.’

Various ideas are being put forward to address social media platforms’ power over the visibility of media content and their influence on public debates. Tech giants are looking into new ways to verify information: relying on third-party organisations to identify “fake news” and refusing to serve advertising revenue to sources of misinformation. Influential media scholars also encourage social media companies to hire editors, not to produce media content, but, in the words of Jeff Jarvis, ‘to bring a sense of public responsibility to their companies and products.’

These proposals are certainly worthy of consideration, but times of uncertainty require caution: any attempt to deal with the influence of social media on the distribution of information and on public debates should be approached as a learning process for all parties involved. As discussed in our previous blog, this learning process is essential for democratic societies. As a collective experience, these initiatives should be open, participatory and transparent. All stakeholders – media companies, journalists, civil society, academia, and social media giants – should collaborate on projects to build a better understanding of how to address the impact of social media giants on civic space, media pluralism and the diversity of content. Discussions must also focus on the development of appropriate remedies, including solutions to flawed algorithmic processes, to help audiences to spot possible misinformation and ensure users’ exposure to a real diversity of opinions and ideas.

As usual, please share this blog on your social networks: you will help ARTICLE 19 contribute to a better understanding of the right to freedom of expression in the 21st century. And if you do share this piece with 10 of your friends, you’ll be delighted how many good things will happen to you (the 7th good thing will come as a surprise).

Source : Article 19

US: Trump’s National Security Choice Won’t Rule Out Torture

Michael Flynn Unwilling to Reject Trump’s Call for Waterboarding

(Washington) – President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for National Security Advisor demonstrates a deeply disturbing disregard for human rights principles and the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today. Flynn has repeatedly endorsed proposals by Trump that would constitute torture and other war crimes.

Donald Trump speaks alongside retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia, US, on September 6, 2016.

“Michael Flynn has shown a stunning contempt for the Geneva Conventions and other laws prohibiting torture,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director. “By offering this key post to Flynn, President-elect Trump is undermining US commitments to international laws that have been broken to America’s detriment.”

On several occasions Trump has said he would allow United States personnel to commit waterboarding and other methods of torture. In November 2015, he said at a rally that he would approve waterboarding “in a heartbeat” because “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.” In February 2016, he said: “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work. Torture works, OK folks?” And at another event the same month he said that as president he would “immediately” resume waterboarding: “Some people say it’s not actually torture – let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: ‘What are you going to do on waterboarding?’ Absolutely fine, but we should go much stronger than waterboarding. That’s the way I feel.”

After a debate in which Trump indicated he might order the US military to break the law on interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, his campaign issued a statement noting, “I do … understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.” Shortly thereafter, however, Trump then suggested he would push to change laws that prohibit waterboarding and other interrogation techniques clearly associated with torture – even though longstanding international human rights and humanitarian law prohibit the use of torture and other ill-treatment under any circumstances.

Instead of adding proponents of torture to his administration, Trump should unequivocally renounce the use of torture under any circumstances.

Sarah Margon

Washington Director

Flynn has repeatedly refused to rule out Trump’s proposed use of torture and other war crimes. “I am a believer in leaving as many options on the table right up until the last possible minute,” Flynn told Al Jazeera in May.

On proposals by Trump to target for attack the families of suspected terrorists, Flynn said he “would have to see what the circumstances of that situation were.” Asked again by The Intercept in July about Trump’s support for torture and targeting suspected terrorists’ family members, he said: “Here’s what a guy like Donald Trump is doing: He’s basically saying, ‘Hey, look, all options are on the table,’ and being very unpredictable in the face of a very determined enemy.”

“Instead of adding proponents of torture to his administration, Trump should unequivocally renounce the use of torture under any circumstances,” Margon said.

Source :  Human Rights Watch

United States must protect freedom of expression at home and abroad

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“ARTICLE 19 calls on President-elect Donald Trump, his administration, and Congress, to uphold the core United States value of freedom of expression and maintain the important and long-standing role of the United States in protecting this right internationally,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

“The values of the United States Constitution are reflected in international human rights law, which the United States has long championed around the world. President-elect Trump must recommit to uphold these values both at home and abroad in this time of heightened global uncertainty,” Hughes continued.

ARTICLE 19 calls on President-elect Trump and the United States Government to:

  1. Embrace his pledge to be a “President for all Americans”, including by unequivocally renouncing the repeated attacks made against ethnic and religious minorities, women, and persons with disabilities during the election campaign, and refraining from such rhetoric in future. All people in the United States must be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression freely and participate fully in public life.
  2. Protect media freedom and recognise the important role of an independent and critical press, and refrain from statements that legitimise or incite violence against journalists, or that justify the abuse of libel laws to attack journalists and silence critical voices.
  3. Fully respect and protect the right to protest, including for government critics and opponents.
  4. Remain an active and engaged member of the United Nations committed to promoting freedom of expression and ensuring accountability for human rights violations, including through its membership of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as of regional bodies such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
  5. Maintain vocal support and funding for civil society organisations and human rights defenders working to promote human rights and democracy around the world.

ARTICLE 19 also calls on the new administration, together with Congress, to address long-standing freedom of expression concerns in the United States:

  1. Prohibit mass digital surveillance, ensuring the compliance of all surveillance activities with the United States Constitution and international human rights law.
  2. End the prosecution of whistleblowers who reveal information in the public interest, and reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, Espionage Act and other relevant laws and executive orders to protect public interest disclosures.
  3. Ensure an open, transparent and accountable government, including by championing the Freedom of Information Act and the proactive disclosure of government policies, practices, and data.        Source : Article 19

Trump Presidency : Be Optimistic-Prof. Olagoke

”To us as religious people, the opposition is there to checkmate any unnecessary  overture . Let us all, therefore remove the phobia of fear and Monti his alliance with Russia through prayers, to regulate the world  of Science and Technology, from been used as weapon of oppression and destruction. Let us be optimistic that God will be in control and guide Donald Trump”

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As the World continues to react to the victory of Donald Trump in the United state Presidential elections, the founder and spiritual head of Shafaudeen worldwide, Wakajaiye, Ibadan, Nigeria, Prof. Sabitu Olagoke , in this interview with Federationews2day, opines that people should be optimistic that God will take control of the situation. Excerpts :

What is your reaction to the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential elections ?

The electoral victory of Donald Trump is a surprise, despite some underground work, he must have done to give him the victory. Going by the various vituperation, which all of us believe was a campaign of hate, full of hurting speeches that had threatened the whole world, that has made a lot of people to dislike him the more. The implication is that if we should stand by what he professed,  then Africa will not enjoy his Presidency.

Nigerians, generally, will be the target of governance, while the Muslim world may  need to regroup and with greater tempo, in renewed acts of defense, which the whole world may even see as increased tempo of  terrorism, because of the way and manner they would want to seek redress.

However, with the antecedents of the general influence of America, in any nation, they go, to wage war or to remove their perceived enemies, they always leave a trail of their own perceived ways of life, which had eroded, so much, the core values of cultural heritage of very many nations.

Donald Trump regards Africans as very lazy womanizers, and this is the reason why we are not developed.

However, Donald himself, said that he was out to unite every American,  and to work with everybody, irrespective  of your religion, creed and race. This implies that he may not be as tough and wicked as we have perceived, mainly because leadership and governance are always guided  by reason.

And the Congress will be there  to checkmate any unnecessary overtures. His total disregard  for abortion and gay practice may give him a better image, over the Obama/Clinton union, because Muslims and Christians will give him full support on this.

To us as religious people, the opposition is there to checkmate any unnecessary  overture . Let us all, therefore remove the phobia of fear and Monti his alliance with Russia through prayers, to regulate the world  of Science and Technology, from been used as weapon of oppression and destruction. Let us be optimistic that God will be in control and guide Donald Trump