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Democracy Now reports: "Pentagon officials today claimed President Obama and future presidents have the power to send troops anywhere in the world to fight groups linked to al-Qaeda, based in part on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."

Senator Robert Byrd warned us of this during the debate on the Iraq war. (photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Senator Robert Byrd warned us of this during the debate on the Iraq war. (photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

From Boston to Pakistan, Pentagon Claims Entire World Is a Battlefield

By Democracy Now!

17 May 13



entagon officials today claimed President Obama and future presidents have the power to send troops anywhere in the world to fight groups linked to al-Qaeda, based in part on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Speaking at the first Senate hearing on rewriting the AUMF, Pentagon officials specifically said troops could be sent to Syria, Yemen and the Congo without new congressional authorization. Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, predicted the war against al-Qaeda would last at least 10 to 20 more years. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) challenged the Pentagon's interpretation of the Constitution and that the entire world is a battlefield. "This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing I've been to since I've been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today," King said. "You guys have invented this term 'associated forces' that's nowhere in this document. ... It's the justification for everything, and it renders the war powers of Congress null and void."

This excerpt of the hearing includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Robert Taylor, acting general counsel, Department of Defense; Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Do you agree with me, the war against radical Islam, or terror, whatever description you like to provide, will go on after the second term of President Obama?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Senator, in my judgment, this is going to go on for quite a while, and, yes, beyond the second term of the president.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: And beyond this term of Congress?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir. I think it's at least 10 to 20 years.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: So, from your point of view, you have all of the authorization and legal authorities necessary to conduct a drone strike against terrorist organizations in Yemen without changing the AUMF.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir, I do believe that.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: You agree with that, General?


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: General, do you agree with that?


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: OK. Could we send military members into Yemen to strike against one of these organizations? Does the president have that authority to put boots on the ground in Yemen?

ROBERT TAYLOR: As I mentioned before, there's domestic authority and international law authority. At the moment, the basis for putting boots on the ground in Yemen, we respect the sovereignty of Yemen, and it would-

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about: Does he have the legal authority under our law to do that?

ROBERT TAYLOR: Under domestic authority, he would have that authority.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I hope that Congress is OK with that. I'm OK with that. Does he have authority to put boots on the ground in the Congo?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir, he does.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: OK. Do you agree with me that when it comes to international terrorism, we're talking about a worldwide struggle?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Absolutely, sir. [inaudible]

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Would you agree with me the battlefield is wherever the enemy chooses to make it?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir, from Boston to the FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan].

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I couldn't agree with you more. We're in a-do you agree with that, General?

BRIG. GEN. RICHARD GROSS: Yes, sir. I agree that the enemy decides where the battlefield is.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: And it could be anyplace on the planet, and we have to be aware and able to act. And do you have the ability to act, and are you aware of the threats?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir. We do have the ability to react, and we are tracking threats globally.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: From my point of view, I think your analysis is correct, and I appreciate all of your service to our country.

SEN. CARL LEVIN: Senator King.

SEN. ANGUS KING: Gentlemen, I've only been here five months, but this is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I've been to since I've been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today. The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, clearly says that the Congress has the power to declare war. This-this authorization, the AUMF, is very limited. And you keep using the term "associated forces." You use it 13 times in your statement. That is not in the AUMF. And you said at one point, "It suits us very well." I assume it does suit you very well, because you're reading it to cover everything and anything. And then you said, at another point, "So, even if the AUMF doesn't apply, the general law of war applies, and we can take these actions." So, my question is: How do you possibly square this with the requirement of the Constitution that the Congress has the power to declare war?

This is one of the most fundamental divisions in our constitutional scheme, that the Congress has the power to declare war; the president is the commander-in-chief and prosecutes the war. But you're reading this AUMF in such a way as to apply clearly outside of what it says. Senator McCain was absolutely right: It refers to the people who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks on September 11. That's a date. That's a date. It doesn't go into the future. And then it says, "or harbored such organizations"-past tense-"or persons in order to prevent any future acts by such nations, organizations or persons." It established a date.

I don't disagree that we need to fight terrorism. But we need to do it in a constitutionally sound way. Now, I'm just a little, old lawyer from Brunswick, Maine, but I don't see how you can possibly read this to be in comport with the Constitution and authorize any acts by the president. You had testified to Senator Graham that you believe that you could put boots on the ground in Yemen now under this-under this document. That makes the war powers a nullity. I'm sorry to ask such a long question, but my question is: What's your response to this? Anybody?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Senator, let me take the first response. I'm not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer of any kind. But let me talk to you a little-take a brief statement about al-Qaeda and the organization that attacked us on September 11, 2001. In the two years prior to that, Senator King, that organization attacked us in East Africa and killed 17 Americans in our embassy in Nairobi, with loosely affiliated groups of people in East Africa. A year prior to 9/11, that same organization, with its affiliates in Yemen, almost sunk a U.S. ship, the U.S.S. Cole, a billion-dollar warship, killed 17 sailors in the port of Aden. The organization that attacked us on 9/11 already had its tentacles in-around the world with associated groups. That was the nature of the organization then; it is the nature of the organization now. In order to attack that organization, we have to attack it with those affiliates that are its operational arm that have previously attacked and killed Americans, and at high-level interests, and continue to try to do that.

SEN. ANGUS KING: That's fine, but that's not what the AUMF says. You can-you can-what I'm saying is, we may need new authority, but don't-if you expand this to the extent that you have, it's meaningless, and the limitation in the war power is meaningless. I'm not disagreeing that we need to attack terrorism wherever it comes from and whoever is doing it. But what I'm saying is, let's do it in a constitutional way, not by putting a gloss on a document that clearly won't support it. It just-it just doesn't-it just doesn't work. I'm just reading the words. It's all focused on September 11 and who was involved, and you guys have invented this term "associated forces" that's nowhere in this document. As I mentioned, in your written statement, you use that-that's the key term. You use it 13 times. It's the justification for everything. And it renders the war powers of the Congress null and void. I don't understand. I mean, I do understand you're saying we don't need any change, because the way you read it, you can-you could do anything. But why not say-come back to us and say, "Yes, you're correct that this is an overbroad reading that renders the war powers of the Congress a nullity; therefore, we need new authorization to respond to the new situation"? I don't understand why-I mean, I do understand it, because the way you read it, there's no limit. But that's not what the Constitution contemplates. your social media marketing partner


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+20 # brux 2013-05-17 08:35
This is a good article, and an important one. While not being a bloodthirsty imperialist, this question and how it is resolved with affect more people's lives in the world than almost any other, and also affect whether individual humans live under freedom and can develop to be fully human or just the workers and soldiers for economic systems that are competing to take over the world.

The Western and United States system has a lot of faults, but I cannot think of another system that competes with it, ie. China, Russia, Islamic, that I would rather see take over .... but on the other hand if our system has to DEvolve to be as bad as the others in order to win or triumph, what have we gained and how have we helped the world?
+5 # Beakie 2013-05-17 10:03
The Western and United States system has a lot of faults, but I cannot think of another system that competes with it, ie. China, Russia, Islamic, that I would rather see take over .... but on the other hand if our system has to DEvolve to be as bad as the others in order to win or triumph, what have we gained and how have we helped the world?

Brux, You seem to be saying that the AUMF, as now being interpreted by the Pentagon (& others) to include any "associated forces" anywhere in the word, represents a DEvolution of our system. I sadly feel that our system has already DEvolved enough not only to affect other countries to devastating effect but ours as well and this article shows yet another example of some of the thinking that has lead us there.
-4 # brux 2013-05-17 18:02
The de-evolution is due to the fact that the US wants to win at the cheapest cost possible - when things go past military force, then everything is about money. It's not really the thinking, it is a necessary reaction to the way world politics is ... just like bubbles are a necessary consequence of how the capitalistic markets are. There is no double-talking around it, or ignoring it.

My answer to all of this stuff is that the civilized West ... if there is such a thing, must forge a new social compact, or set its society up so that both a civil society/militar y industrial complex, and a safety net state need to coexist with an understanding to stop the bickering and get on with things.

On the left we need to quit trying to kill off the military, innovations in business, and the right needs to pay its taxes and submit to the rule of civilized law. Then looking reasonably at numbers we can start to optimize military and social programs to make them more efficient over time and so they do not serve only the mechanistic needs of industry but the human needs of people.

One human need of people is to have a goal, and our goal should be a modified version of what the US stood for after WWII, getting rid of tyranny ... not co-opting them or trying to buy them off, but getting rid of them - ultimately that means Russia, China and the Middle East. Right now the only possible actions are in the middle east and "we" are making the best inroads we can.
+1 # dkonstruction 2013-05-20 09:45
First, as for what "the US stood for after WWII" -- does this include trying to influence and or "fix" elections abroad? How about the overthrow of democratically elected governments (e.g., in Iran in 1953)? And, what about going to war against countries that never even threatened to attack us (e.g., Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia)? As long as the tyrants are "our" tyrants we have never had any problem with these regimes.

As for the left wanting to "kill off the military" -- do, are you saying you believe we should have 600-800 military bases around the world; continue to spend billions to "defend" Japan and Western Europe; continue to go to war against nations that have not attacked or even threatened to attack us (e.g., Iraq)? And, I don't know a single person on "the left" that wants to kill of "innovations in business" unless by this you mean the development of creative accounting practices (ala Enron) that cook the books...isn't it "the left" for example that is promoting investment in things like a new national smart grid, high speed rail, renewable energy sources and energy efficient retrofits of our building stock?
+7 # universlman 2013-05-17 10:45
Well stated brux. However, I believe there is no consensus of the people in China, Russia and the Mid-East. They would likely rather see THEIR system take over. At one time a lot more people believed in our military as a force for good. Since 911 and our impulsive overreaction including the Iraq War, Abu Ghrab, Guantanamo, drones overhead, etc., there are many people even inside the country who have lost confidence that our approach is a winning strategy.

To promote humans living in freedom, we would have had to do a much smarter job. It is a little late now. This article clearly points up the problem.
+18 # indian weaver 2013-05-17 11:33
Brux must have never worked or lived in Europe. Am I right? I was first in Europe in Spring 1969. Even then they had universal health coverage, single payer government sponsored, just for starters. Working in Europe in the early 1980s for Bayer AG out of Leverkusen, Germany, I found Europe, even including France, so much more friendly and less threatening than the usa, and it remains so today. To me, Europe is now far superior as a place to live than amerika. In general, it's a friendly place with a super infrastructure in most all ways, while we have essentially no infrastructure (fast trains, inner city rails / suburbs, ex-city S-Bahns like Munich, etc. No investment whatsoever in The People anymore from our government means it has abandoned all of us. I'm sure many other places beat this crumbling dump as superior. And don't tell me love it or leave it. The government has already left and we are remaining, the detritus of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity waged daily by Obama and all those hateful criminals such as Boehner McConnell on and on ...
-3 # brux 2013-05-17 18:04
Why would you make that connection ... I am not saying Europe is bad or that the US should not follow Europe in some of the things you bring up .. I think we should ... I think we need to progress socially in order to progress militarily ... that is the bargain that needs to be made.
+12 # Michael Lee Bugg 2013-05-17 12:57
Brux, et al, the Republicans like Graham and the people at the head of our military are just a bunch of war mongers and religious bigots! They need a "war" of some kind to make it easier for officers to get promotions, especially above the level of Lt-Colonel, and to keep collecting donations from the American taxpayers! Above Lt-Col, according to a retired Air Force friend, you must have commanded troops in combat to make promotion more likely. The "War on Terror" was nothing more than a political smoke screen to bury W's criminal negligence prior to 9/11, and to distract voters from the recession of 2002 when they voted in November of 2002 to maintain Republican control of Congress in a midterm election, and to serve as a flimsy pretext for the invasion of Iraq which a majority of Americans opposed up to March 19, 2003! Unfortunately few elected Democrats would point this out much less stand in opposition to it. The simple question to ask these war-loving fools is, "If the "War on Terror", as being conducted, is worth a damn, why is it not over after 12 costly years?! Terrorists are not a nation, they are criminal organizations. The military can defeat nations but they cannot defeat steadily renewing bands of radicals. Our military makes new radicals faster than they can kill the old ones, and the new ones will want to avenge the old ones, by God!!! Stop treating their land as ours and the old ones will grow old and die and the new ones will lose interest!
-8 # brux 2013-05-17 18:11
I agree with some of your sarcasm and contempt, but I also know what what keeps the peace with America is our military, and while we may not have a threat, keeping up with practice and fighting and actually using our weapons and getting experience with our people puts us way ahead, where we want to be of these other systems.

The bottom line is that while we all believe in morals and rules and fairness - it emanates from the end of a gun, and there are those in America who believe however nastily they express it that we must always be ready to back down any threat, and even go after them preemptively.

I agree with this, however, I do not agree with the actions we claim to take to enact this.

I think that Saudi Arabia claims their lands for them ... and I don't believe that any religion or even cultural group should "own" any piece of the Earth ... I think the Islamic expansionist agenda is something that needs to be destroyed, but I also think we are as you saying doing it all backwards and making it harder than it needs to be for the profit of some.

That's why a pact, a recognition of both POV's existence needs to be formed so that we invest in our people and at the same time quit trying to become isolationist, we need to meet and even go out and find the threat ... that is what America has been about since WWII and talk will never change that - we Liberals need to recognize that.
+28 # tedrey 2013-05-17 09:06
Were al-Qaida five times the threat it is, it would be less dangerous to our people and our future, and to the world, than these power-hungry hypocrites and their congressional pimps. They have no more conscience than a cobra, (and no more feeling for constitutional checks and balances than a hyena.)
+21 # m... 2013-05-17 09:25
WoW.! The ENTIRE World..., a WORLD WAR..!

Just think of the lucrative Corporate Profiteering possibilities that opens up for the highly lucrative WAR Industry...

I wonder who is donating big Money=Speech $$$$ to the Political Campaigns of the 'WORLD WAR' Folks in D.C..?

Maybe The SCOTUS decided Money=Speech, but actually '''SPEAKING'''' very very LOUDLY in a campaign doesn't mean We the mere People get to see who the BIG MOUTHS are...
+27 # reiverpacific 2013-05-17 10:06
O' Jeezusss, this is just another justification for maintaining the trundling behemoth that is the US military, bigger than the next 26 countries combined.
The death dealt out by the US around the world by direct invasion, intervention or support of installed dictators can't even be approached by the rest of the world combined since WW11 and probably before. Just take the current trial and prosecution of Reagan's ol' buddy Rios Mott as a scratch on the surface but a good example.
As for better systems, the US is nothing like the rest of "Western" countries, all with faults for sure but all with (just for as start) Universal Healthcare, no death penalty, and good public transportation) .
It is driven by a still- primitive and bloodthirsty Military-corpor ate Imperialist power for global enslavement of the poor and needy and sweatshops in a vicious, inhuman circle of top-heavy elitist, class conscious and racist subjugation with a corrupt, bought-and-paid government excepting a few brave voices almost mocked by their lobbyist-fueled peers and a pathetic corporate press in the manner of the Imperial Roman 'Panem et Circences' (Keep em passive on heavily bulked up and fed on cheap, chemically stuffed junk food dumbly and preferably violently entertained, on content free stuffing between commercials) and silence the dissident, creative progressive voices.
Kill at will but make health care, both preventative and healing, a luxury for the better-off.
Yep, great system!
+10 # James Marcus 2013-05-17 10:20
Impeach Obama. Prosecute ALL involved in these Treasonous Actions, which are also Crimes Against Humanity.
0 # brux 2013-05-17 18:12
All governments and powers commit crimes against humanity or exist because of crimes against humanity that happened in the past.
+9 # jwb110 2013-05-17 10:29
OK. So now the military can arrest any AMerican on the street in the US. Add to that the idea of a global war. What it means that under these laws people like OWS or any other group that uses the right to free speech can be arrested under the gize of a terrorist. The Oak Ridge Trail proves how over reaching the Federal Gov't is in its escalating grinding down of the Constitutional rights of Americans. The War on Terror is being used to justify the worst treatment of Americans and this is the only thing about which I am concerned. These new interpretations that circumvent the basic rights and privileges of American citizens are a bigger danger to this country than radical Islam could ever be.
This particular hearing surely will be read in the MIddle East. It can easily be seen as a war strategy and used against us. As a country we could end up fighting a"war" on so many fronts that it could never be won. People the likes of Graham had better stop thing of Arabs as Sand Nig##ers. Many of the opposition to American policy were educated in some of the best institutions worldwide. They are not dumb and have managed to pull off some rather scary acts.
When the US Gov't ceases to protect and defend the Constitution it just means that Islam has already ready won the war.
+26 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-05-17 10:31
The military and the corporations are running the US. Wake up America. Take back our government.
+10 # indian weaver 2013-05-17 10:33
I'd love to see all these lying cowards blown to kingdom come. Yes ruin our lives and nation to make fast bucks on assassinations, terrorism and torture. Don't invest a penny in The People, only in vicious aggression and mayhem. That is now the Amerikan way. It's my country but not my government. Obama is not my leader. he's a two-bit baby boy toy coward who serves his massa's of money, banks, fascism. He knows (or is he really as clueless as he appears?) he'll be assassinated by our government otherwise.
+11 # mclaire12 2013-05-17 10:34
The obvious reasons for preemptive strike inIraq was Oil and war powers. that is the reason for the "War on Terror" Terror is not a country.Terror is an emotion. this is outrageous. this GOP either is war hungry or has a hidden agenda. i say Stop right now!!!!!
+5 # Rick Mason 2013-05-17 10:58
Because the so called 'terrorist' attacks of 9/11/01 are the biggest lie ever told to the world this whole argument supporting global battlefields in nullified.
The 'official' story we were told on 9/11/01, and which has been perpetually shoved down our throats since then does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. It is absolutely impossible, in this universe, and based on the laws of physics, for the explanation of events to occur as told to us by the government and corporate owned and controlled media.
If we are to believe Islamic 'terrorists acting on behalf of their god, Allah, did 9/11, then perhaps we should all convert to Islam because Allah is powerful enough to defy the laws of nature as set down by the Christian God.
These 'laws' of physics are the only laws in our universe that require no enforcement by humans because they CAN'T BE BROKEN! The laws of physics are not 'conspiracy theories' they are undeniable facts!
The truth is available at .
I urge everyone not to take my word on this, have the courage to do some research yourself. The above mentioned website is a great place to begin.
Once all the people in America know the truth, we can end these illegal, immoral wars and stop wasting billions of our tax dollars per month on an enemy that was created by our government in order to do exactly what this article talks about! 9/11 is a lie!!!
+15 # Anarchist 23 2013-05-17 11:05
'See the world; meet interesting people and kill them' WhooHa -the 100 Year War begins.Is it Fascism yet?
+12 # Billy Bob 2013-05-17 11:15
Will there ever be a line that the Pentagon/nation al "security" police state can not cross?
+11 # angelfish 2013-05-17 12:27
We have met the enemy...and he is US! The GOP has morphed into a perverted, power hungry Terrorist Group all it's own! HOW do we get back to the principles on which this Country was originally founded? Washington, Adams and Jefferson are surely SPINNING in their graves over what is being done to this Country! The "shrub" and his "handlers", saw fit to strip the Constitution and pervert it for their own twisted ends. God help us to return to the ideals and morality that made us, once, a great Nation.
+5 # Matamike 2013-05-17 12:59
Blowback is the unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency acted—are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack ) against them.
+14 # Ladidah 2013-05-17 13:10
It is horrifying that the main product we export is war. The monies spent for military action abroad could be use to benefit our economy at home.
+8 # Terrapin 2013-05-17 18:44
"You don't know where The Edge is until you've gone over it." Hunter S. Thompson
Yup ... the U.S.A.® has gone over it!
The War Machine and the Greed Machine now incontrovertibl y
run The Show.
Democracy has been replaced by Fascism.
(see angelfish above)

+6 # RMDC 2013-05-18 08:07
Sieg Heil is right. The US is a fully blown fascist and military dictatorship. Before 9-11 they kept pretty quiet about it. Now they shout is from the halls of Congress.
+9 # ladymidath 2013-05-17 18:56
what will happen when your military turns on your own people? When your government decides that people protesting are terrorists and you are all staring down the barrel of a gun?
You don't seem to realize that you are all losing the freedoms that your forefathers fought for.
+5 # RnR 2013-05-18 07:25
some of us do
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-05-18 07:58
Imperial arrogance: unaffordable, illogical, overweening & deadly. it sank Rome & it’ll sink the Rome-aping USA
+3 # RMDC 2013-05-18 08:06
Graham: Would you agree with me the battlefield is wherever the enemy chooses to make it?

This has been standard US policy since WW II. The US regime has always been able to fabricate enemies where ever it chooses. In the cold war, there was always a communist insurgency. In other places it was ethnic struggle. Anywhere that natural resources exist, the US will fabricate an enemy and then to fight it.

Now the US regime is fabricating cyber enemies. The Pentagon has a whole division of Cyber warfare and is currently attacking other nations via the internet. It is fabricating china or Iran as cyber enemies.

The US military-congre ssional conspiracy is pathological. It is a cult of death. It spreads death all over the world. No one and no place is exempt. They kill at will or whenever they feel like it.

These are the people who run the US. They are the ones who tell the puppet in the White House what to do. Don't make a mistake about these people -- they are psychopaths.
+1 # Walter J Smith 2013-05-18 08:39
Why is it surprising to learn that Senators Lindsey Graham and Carl Levin have no idea what was in the legislation they pushed 11 years ago?

The number of senators who are no stupid dizzy ignorant of what they are doing and what they think they are doing can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
+1 # Dom 2013-05-18 09:36
Senator Angus King has OUR Constitution's back, and follows the rule of law. Yet most comments are not in support of a stalwart congressman. Huh? I would get behind those who support following our Constitution, and leave the bickering for another venue.
+2 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-05-18 10:40
Why, oh, why are they asking the Pentagon to interpret these laws instead of asking the Supreme Court to do it?
0 # AUCHMANNOCH 2013-05-20 02:11
Reiverpacific - why don't you say what you really mean? You're getting a bit soft and deferential for a Scot aren't you mate!!
0 # 1984 2013-05-20 14:42
The bad news is that this interpretation exists that the President can send our troups anywhere he wants, as did Bush.
The bad news is that Congress would do the same thing anyway.
The good news is that it would take congress 5 or more years to make its decision and then we won't be plundering other countries under the excuse of fighting terrorism, when really we seek to exploit their recourses and people, and otherwise to make sure the balance of power remains with the US.

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