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Israeli military training critically damaging to Palestinian farmers

International Solidarity Movement | April 25, 2015

Aqraba, Occupied Palestine – On 25th April 2015 ISM volunteers met with the mayor of Aqraba, Ayman Bani Fadl, who has asked internationals to document the intrusive Israeli occupation forces’ actions over the past week. The Israeli forces have been using civilian farm land to carry out training operations. The military have an encampment where they have stationed around ten tanks and approximately fifteen more armored vehicles, as well as numerous troops.

Israeli occupation forces present on Palestinian land near Aqraba (Photo by Aqraba Muncipality 24.04.15)

Israeli occupation forces present on Palestinian land near Aqraba (Photo by Aqraba Muncipality 24.04.15)

The military training in this area is hugely damaging to the farming economy, due to the fact that this seasons harvest began earlier in the month. Farmers are now prevented from carrying out their harvest by the presence of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). The mayor stated that it is likely the military chose the time and area in a deliberate attempt to disrupt the harvest and the livelihoods of the civilian population. He also claimed the actions of the IOF were strategically designed to expropriate the land, forcing the farmers to leave the area. He went on to say that the military have already designated 150,000 dunams of Aqraba land as a military zone. Meaning, the military have full control of the area. Despite this, the IOF have chosen to carry out their present training operations on the 10,000 dunams that remain accessible to the farmers.

These military operations occur on a regular basis and have a permanent and damaging effect on the community. Not least of which is the unexploded ordinance, carelessly left by the military, which has been responsible for killing four individuals and maiming tens of others, mostly children.

To add to the continuing persecution of Aqraba civilians, four months ago the electricity network, financed by the Belgian government, was demolished by Israeli forces. Due to a lack of funds, the municipality has only been able to temporarily reconstruct a portion of the network.

Furthermore, this continual land grab results in Israeli control over highly fertile agricultural soil and cuts off Palestinian access to the Jordan Valley, restricting freedom of movement and their right to cultivate their own farming land.

The present military operation in Aqraba is just one example of the ongoing violent harassment and disruption that is one of many tactics used by Israeli forces, to make life so intolerable for Palestinians they will leave and abandon their land. Oppressive tactics of a similar nature are rife throughout the West Bank, with towns and villages in and around the Jordan Valley being particularly subject to persecution from the Israeli forces.

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing | , , , , | 1 Comment

Embracing the Saudi War on Yemen

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 25, 2015

As the humanitarian crisis in Yemen worsens, the Obama administration seems less concerned about the plight of the desperate Yemeni people than the feelings of the Saudi royals who have spent the last month indiscriminately bombing a nearly defenseless Yemen, using high-tech U.S. jets and bombs to reportedly kill hundreds of civilians and damage its ancient cities.

On Friday, the Obama administration took credit for blocking nine Iranian ships from reaching Yemen with relief supplies, claiming that the ships may have carried weapons that the Yemenis could use in their civil war or to defend against Saudi attacks. President Barack Obama had dispatched a U.S. aircraft carrier fleet to the Yemeni coast to enforce an embargo that has helped the Saudis seal off the country from outside help.

A person closely involved with the Yemen crisis told me that the Iranian ships carried food and medicine, not weapons, but turned back to avoid the risk and humiliation of being boarded by the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, is facing shortages of basic supplies since the Saudis have cut off normal trade routes into Yemen.

Yet, despite the suffering of Yemen, the U.S. government appears more worried about the sensitivities of Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the region. A Defense Department official, speaking anonymously, told the New York Times that it was “important that the Saudis know that we have an arm around their shoulders.”

Defense Department officials also acknowledged that they didn’t know what type of cargo was being transported aboard the Iranian ships, the Times reported. Though the Obama administration had touted the possibility that the Iranian ships carried weapons, the decision by Iran to avoid a confrontation may have reflected Tehran’s desire not to worsen relations with the United States and thus disrupt fragile negotiations over international guarantees to ensure that its nuclear program remains peaceful.

But the losers in this military/diplomatic maneuvering appear to be the Yemenis who, in effect, face a Saudi strategy of starving the country into submission with the help of the United States. While U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power built her public image as a “humanitarian interventionist” asserting a “responsibility to protect” vulnerable populations, she has said little about the Saudi role in Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

In a statement on April 14, at the height of the Saudi bombing campaign, Power made no mention of the Saudi attacks or the hundreds of civilian dead from Saudi bombs supplied by the United States. She instead focused her denunciations on the Houthi rebels and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have joined forces in a civil war that ousted sitting President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who then fled to Saudi Arabia.

Power primarily blamed the Houthis, who “have intensified their military campaign, bombed Aden, and extended their offensive to Yemen’s south. These actions have caused widespread violence and instability that threaten the security and welfare of the Yemeni people, as well as the region’s security.”

Though the Saudi air force has bombed a number of cities including the ancient port city of Aden, Power ignored those attacks in her statement. But Power was not alone in her solicitousness toward the Saudis. On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry even endorsed the Saudi bombing of Houthi targets in Yemen.

Who Are the Houthis?

The Houthis adhere to the Zaydi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam but one that is considered relatively close to Sunni Islam and that peacefully co-existed with Sunni Islam for centuries. But the Houthis have been resisting what they regard as government persecution in recent decades.

As revealed in leaked U.S. government cables and documented by Human Rights Watch, Yemen’s government used U.S. military aid to support an all-out assault against the Houthis in 2009. HRW said Yemeni government forces indiscriminately shelled and bombed civilian areas, causing significant civilian casualties and violating the laws of war. This repression of the Houthis led to an escalation last fall which ended with the Houthi rebels, who allied themselves with army forces loyal to ex-President Saleh, capturing Sanaa and other major cities.

After these victories, in private contacts with American officials, the Houthis indicated their readiness to take the fight to Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate. However, since the Saudi airstrikes began a month ago, “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” has taken advantage of the limitations on Houthi rebel movements by grabbing more territory in the east and overrunning a prison that held a number of Al-Qaeda militants.

The Saudi royals have a complicated relationship with Al-Qaeda including some princes who are viewed as important financiers of the terror group. The Saudis also promote the same extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism. Now, instead of concentrating on the terror threat from Al-Qaeda, the Saudis have sought to portray the Yemeni civil war as a proxy assault in Saudi Arabia’s backyard by Shiite-ruled Iran.

In that propaganda effort, the Saudis have been helped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has relied on the powerful Israel Lobby and his own rhetoric to divert the U.S. Congress from a focus on Al-Qaeda and its hyper-brutal spinoff, the Islamic State, to Iran, which both Saudi Arabia and Israel have designated their primary regional enemy.

In his March 3 speech to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu cited Yemen as one of the Mideast countries that Iran has been “gobbling up.” Many regional experts, however, considered Netanyahu’s assertion ludicrous given the Houthis’ reputation for stubborn independence.

For instance, former CIA official Graham E. Fuller called the notion “that the Houthis represent the cutting edge of Iranian imperialism in Arabia – as trumpeted by the Saudis” a “myth.” He added:

“The Zaydi Shia, including the Houthis, over history have never had a lot to do with Iran. But as internal struggles within Yemen have gone on, some of the Houthis have more recently been happy to take Iranian coin and perhaps some weapons — just as so many others, both Sunni and Shia, are on the Saudi payroll. The Houthis furthermore hate al-Qaeda and hate the Islamic State.”

But the Obama administration remains sensitive to Israeli-Saudi criticism of its efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear dispute. So, to demonstrate that the Americans are comforting the Saudi royals with “an arm around their shoulders,” the U.S. government is embracing the Saudi bombardment of a largely defenseless country and is turning back ships carrying relief supplies.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

April 25, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Funded Industrial Park in Afghanistan Found With Only One Business and No Electricity . . . And Missing Records

By Jonathon Turley | April 23, 2015

We have yet another example of how we are wasting billions of dollars in Afghanistan where a combination of incompetence and corruption continues to drain the U.S. treasury. This week, SIGAR released two reports showing how, an inspection of the $7.8 million Shorandam Industrial Park in Kandahar is an utter failure and how the money to create a sustainable source of power for Kandahar City has left the city literally in the dark. Once again, there is no indication of any discipline or action taken against those who approve such projects and oversee such failures.

I have previously written about the waste of billions of dollars by the government without any significant discipline of government officials. We have become accustomed to reports of unimaginable corruption and waste in Afghanistan from bags of money delivered to officials to constructing huge buildings immediately torn down to buying aircraft that cannot be used to buildings that seem to “melt away”. Much like our useless campaign against poppy production where we continued to spend billions because no one had the courage to end or change the program.

In this latest case, SIGAR found only one active Afghan business at the park, which was designed to accommodate 48 businesses. Notably, SIGAR inspectors found that they could not full assess the site because there was a lack of electricity and the contract files were mysteriously missing — leaving them also both literally and figuratively in the dark.

The missing contract files are a signature for our contractors in Afghanistan. An inspection of USAID-funded facility at Gorimar Industrial Park in Balkh province also found the files missing.

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 1 Comment

F-35 deal to destroy US leverage on Israel: Commentator

Press TV – April 24, 2015

Press TV has conducted an interview with Peter Rushton, a historian and political commentator from London, and Lawrence J. Korb, a former US Assistant Secretary of Defense in Washington, to discuss Washington’s delivery of new F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

Rushton says the delivery of fighter jets truly shows that the policies of US President Barack Obama are totally in line with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, adding the most worrying fact is that the White House continues its military deals with Tel Aviv despite the regime’s longstanding aggressive policies.

The analyst slammed the recent military deal with Israel, which is the sole possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East, saying such an accord strips Washington of any means of leverage that could enable the US to contain Tel Aviv’s warmongering policies.

Meanwhile, Korb believes the US is selling the equipment to Israel only to bolster the regime’s deterrence power in the face of dangers in the region.

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

US court rejects lawsuit against charity funding of Jewish settlements

Ma’an – April 25, 2015

BETHLEHEM – The US Court of Appeals in New York has rejected an appeal from a group of 13 Palestinians seeking damages for alleged “terrorist attacks” by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported Friday.

The complaint was filed against US-based charities that financially support settlements, alleging that such support leads to terrorist activity and is in violation of US anti-terrorism laws, reported Israeli news source Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The USA Patriot Act enacted in October 2001 prohibits citizens from “knowingly providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.”

Plaintiffs in the case argued that charities were financially supporting terrorist activity by funding settlers who have carried out acts of violence against Palestinians and their land, and desecrated houses of prayer.

Charities accused in the case included Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.

After District Judge Jesse Furman initially rejected the case last year, the appeal was rejected again this week by a panel of appellate judges.

“American federal judges recognize the difference between the financing of murder and violence… and legitimate bona fide financial support of the daily needs of peaceful Israeli settlements over the Green Line,” Israeli Haaretz quoted attorney Nathan Lewin, who represented the charities in the trials.

Privately funded violence

The dismissal of the case is a setback for those fighting to shed light on private US funding that is currently helping to sustain illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, as well as the violence that results from it.

While the U.S. government has condemned ongoing settlement expansion, its citizens have been able to freely donate millions to the illegal enclaves.

The New York Times identified at least 40 American groups in 2010 that had collected over $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank over the last decade.

Israeli watchdog Americans for Peace Now have long fought against tax-exempt donations to settlements.

Among other criticisms, the groups point out that IRS regulations exempting charities from tax deduction define a charitable organization as one that “includes relief of the poor and distressed or of the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening of the burdens of government; promotion of social welfare.”

Such a definition does not extend to charities funneling funds to the Jewish-only settlements of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the group argues, and such donations should not be tax-exempt.

The court ruling on the 13 Palestinians’ appeal is only the latest example of a number of cases in which Israeli settlers have gained legal backing from the US government for illegal practices.

Attacks carried out with impunity

Human rights groups in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have long fought for effective Israeli law enforcement against the type of violent acts committed by Israeli settlers that the 13 Palestinians were drawing attention to.

Such acts are often termed “price-tag attacks,” and are carried out to retaliate perceived pressure from both Israeli and foreign governments against settlements, most often with Palestinian civilians as their victims.

They are nearly always carried out with impunity from the law.

Following price-tag attacks on Vatican-owned offices in occupied East Jerusalem in May 2014, Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the government planned to begin using administrative detention against suspected extremists.

Although Israeli police had made scores of arrests before that time, there had been few successful prosecutions for price-tag attacks and the government was facing mounting pressure to authorize the Shin Bet internal security agency to step in.

The US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism discussed price-tag attacks for the first time in 2013, citing UN figures of some “399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage.”

The report said such attacks were “largely unprosecuted.”

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Teen Killed By Israeli Army Fire In Jerusalem

IMEMC & Agencies | April 25, 2015

gholanIsraeli soldiers shot and killed, on Friday at night, a young Palestinian named Ali Sa’id Abu Ghannam, 16 years of age, near the Zaim military roadblock, east of occupied Jerusalem.

The Palestinian News & Info Agency WAFA has reported that the soldiers stopped the Palestinian, who was walking with a young woman from his family, and started provoking the two, before the soldiers uttered vulgar words towards the young woman.

The incident caused the young man to engage in a scuffle with the soldiers before one of them shot him dead.

The army is alleging the Palestinian “attempted to stab a soldier,” and was shot dead while trying to flee the scene.

The name of the slain Palestinian is Ali Sa’id Abu Ghannam, 16 years of age.

The Israeli army refused to hand the body of the slain Palestinian to the Red Crescent ambulance that arrived on the scene, and took it to an unknown destination.

The Israeli Police alleged the young Palestinian arrived at the roadblock “and started running towards the soldiers while carrying a butcher knife.”

Ynet News quoted a police statement alleging that one of the soldiers managed to hold the Palestinian, “but he continued to run towards the soldiers,” and they shot him dead.

In related news, Palestinian medical sources have reported that two Palestinians were shot and injured, on Friday, after Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinians east of Abasan town, east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis.

One of the wounded was moved to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, suffering a gunshot injury, while the second received treatment by local medics after being shot with a rubber-coated metal bullet.

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel war on critics of Gaza crimes

Norwegian doctor Mads Frederick Gilbert (C) treats a Palestinian child wounded in an Israeli airstrike at al-Shifa hospital on July 17, 2014.

Norwegian doctor Mads Frederick Gilbert (C) treats a Palestinian child wounded in an Israeli airstrike at al-Shifa hospital on July 17, 2014
By KEVIN BARRETT | Press TV | April 25, 2015

Partisans of Israel are not content merely to murder and maim Palestinian civilians. They also launch “weaponized words” against anyone who speaks out against their crimes . . . including the world’s most prestigious medical journals.

The Zionists’ latest verbal salvo has targeted The Lancet, the world’s best-known medical journal. Medical apologists for Israel’s July 2014 assault on Gaza have posted a letter claiming The Lancet’s July 22 2014 article on Israeli war crimes constitutes “stereotypical extremist hate propaganda.” It seems the Israel lobby’s medical division has declared war on The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, and its publisher, Reed Elsevier.

The Zionists, who have bought up the Western mainstream media and are currently targeting Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians in the biggest wave of hate propaganda in history, are hardly qualified to issue such accusations.

The Zionist doctors’ letter accuses The Lancet of a long list of vague and portentously-worded alleged misdeeds. But it offers virtually no specifics whatsoever to back up its hyper-general accusations. The vacuous list of charges against The Lancet includes “ethical and scientific lapses” (such as?), “failure to apply the normal rigorous standards of honesty and transparency” (with no examples given), failure to “publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed” (without offering a single concrete example of anything the Lancet published that required any such correction).

The Zionist letter attacks The Lancet’s July 22 2014 article “An open letter for the people in Gaza.” The angry authors bombastically assert: “ ‘An open letter for the people in Gaza’ by Manduca et al contains false assertions, unverifiable dishonest ‘facts’, many of them libellous, and glaring omissions.”

But the Zionists cannot name a single false assertion. They are just blowing smoke, hoping that nobody is paying close attention.

The Lancet Ombudsman had already investigated “An open letter for the people in Gaza” and found no false statements. According to, the Ombudsman did cite a “’regrettable statement’ that, because only 5% of Israeli academics had supported an appeal to” Israel to end the “military operation in Gaza (Gur-Arieh 2014), the authors had been ‘tempted to conclude that … the rest of the Israeli academics [had been] complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza.’”

But what is regrettable about such a statement? Can there be any doubt that the vast majority of Israeli academics, indeed a virtual unanimity of Zionists in Occupied Palestine, were actively or passively complicit in the massacre, and the larger genocide? While it may be regrettable that the Zionists in Occupied Palestine are complicit in Tel Aviv’s war crimes, and its larger ongoing program of genocide, it is not the slightest bit regrettable that The Lancet writers have pointed out such a disturbing but indisputable fact. (Polls show that virtually all Zionists in Occupied Palestine support the Gaza massacres, including the so-called Cast Lead in 2008-2009 and Protective Edge last summer.)

The roughly 500 Zionist doctors who are fulminating against The Lancet ought to have their licenses to practice medicine revoked. Then they ought to be put on trial for complicity in genocide propaganda. They are a disgrace to the medical profession, like the Nazi doctors who were indirectly responsible for brutalizing helpless people in World War II Germany because they averted their gazes from the crimes of their countrymen.

Unlike the Nazi Doctors (and their mirror images, the Zionist Doctors), the authors of  “An open letter for the people in Gaza” could not avert their gaze:

“The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes…”

The Zionist Doctors have not demonstrated a single factual error in the above words, nor in any other passage from “An open letter for the people in Gaza.”

The current assault on The Lancet is not the first Zionist war on a leading medical journal. In 2004, British Medical Journal (BMJ) published “Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes.” According to the article:

“Two thirds of the 621 children (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest – the sniper’s wound… Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorized to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat.”

The BMJ article was unprecedented. For first time in history, one of the world’s leading medical journals had documented the murder by sniper fire of more than 600 helpless Palestinian children – many of them “hunted for sport” as described by one horrified eyewitness, the journalist Chris Hedges, in his famous article “Gaza Diary.”

The Zionist reaction was swift. BMJ was castigated with the usual blustering Zionist rhetoric. But not a single factual mistake was found. As usual, the Zionists used vicious ad hominem attacks to obscure the hollowness of their arguments.

On December 9th, 1946, an American military tribunal charged twenty-three leading German physicians with crimes against humanity. Sixteen were convicted, and seven were executed.

Will the Zionist Doctors, whose complicity in genocide propaganda has been demonstrated by their attack on The Lancet, one day meet a similar fate?

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

International Atomic Energy Agency Lacks Transparency, Observers and Researchers Say

Nuclear Inspection Agency Demands Transparency from Others, but Not Itself

Some Documents Accessible in U.S. and British Archives Are Locked up in Agency’s Vienna Headquarters

Never Before Published Document Describes IAEA 1996 Transparency Proposal (See Sidebar)

By Toby McIntosh and William Burr  – National Security Archive – April 24, 2015

Newly Obtained Document Describes IAEA 1996 Transparency Proposal

The veil has been lifted slightly on the secret 19-year-old transparency policy at International Atomic Energy Agency.

Since the drafting of the essay for this e-book, and the National Security Archive’s Nuclear Vault have obtained, from a non-Agency source, the proposal referred to in the essay that was made to the Board of Governors in 1996 for a more liberal disclosure policy.

leakedThe Board did adopt such a derestriction policy, but the policy has never been disclosed. (See the Vault report on IAEA transparency.) Some observers said the policy has not been fully implemented.

The eight-page proposal from the IAEA Secretariat is dated February 15, 1996, and titled “Proposal for the Derestriction of Board Documents.” The language of the document is similar to a one-line description of the policy provided previously by an IAEA staffer – the disclosure of “most” Board documents after two years. However, the final policy may not be identical to the proposal.

The Secretariat’s proposal suggests a variety of motivating factors.

It points out that the classification categories being used at the time – “RESTRICTED Distr.” and “For official use only” – “have never been defined and are subject to differing interpretation.” It also notes that “the trend within the United Nations generally, as within the Agency, is towards greater transparency.” Further, the proposal says that Member States handle IAEA documents domestically in accordance with national criteria and thus “no doubt exercise different degrees of restrictiveness.”

The Secretariat’s proposed disclosure policy provides substantial grounds for withholding documents, including “any other documents specified by the Board.”

It states:

8. In the light of the foregoing, it is proposed that, with the exception of the annual Safeguards Implementation Report, documents relating to deliberations of the Board in closed session, documents to whose distribution there is a legal impediment and any other documents specified by the Board, documents of the Board and its Committee be derestricted two years after the year in which they were issued, all such documents issued in or before 1993 being derestricted with immediate effect, all such documents issued in 1994 being derestricted with effect from 1 January 1997, etc. It is further proposed that documents subject to the exception provided for earlier in this paragraph be derestricted by the Board at a later date if the Board decides, in light of information provided by the Secretariat, that the grounds for maintenance of the restriction no longer exists.”

The proposal further specifies six document series to be covered by the policy, such as “GOV/DEC/…”

Transparency Policy History Described

The document provides insights into Agency transparency history.

It recalls that there was a time when some Board and committee documents, marked “PARTICIPANTS only,” were not made available to all Member States.

A footnote describes a progressive change in the Board’s rules to permit more access and involvement by Member States not on the 35-member Board.

Another footnote indicates that the IAEA handled requests for access to documents by referring requesters to the competent authority in the Member State.

T.M. and W.B.

Washington, D.C. April 24, 2015 – The nuclear inspection agency that is central to the current Iran negotiations is flunking international transparency norms, according to a report posted today by and the National Security Archive’s Nuclear Vault. Key documents about International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proceedings, found in various national archives and private collections but closed at Agency headquarters in Vienna, are included in today’s posting.

The investigation found that an important transparency policy document (see sidebar) is itself secret, since the IAEA Board of Governors has never officially announced or disclosed its 1996 decision to release its documents after two years – a decision honored more in the breach than in the observance.

In today’s posting, Toby McIntosh and William Burr of the National Security Archive discuss and analyze the IAEA’s failure to create an effective disclosure policy. Despite the Agency’s 1996 decision, essential records such as minutes of the Board of Governor’s meetings have remained closed even from the 1950s when the Agency was created. Moreover, critically important parts of the Agency’s historical archives in Vienna are out of bounds to researchers, creating major obstacles for historians and social scientists attempting to tell the story of this vital organization.

* * * * *

The IAEA’s Lack of Transparency

By Toby McIntosh and William Burr

Several facts serve as metaphors to describe the lack of transparency at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

One telling fact is that a key transparency policy document is itself a secret. The Board of Governors has never officially announced, or disclosed, its 1996 decision to release its documents after two years. Also symbolizing IAEA opacity, and greatly frustrating researchers, is an IAEA rule that limits visits to the Vienna headquarters archives room to only five days a month.

The secret disclosure policy and the unwelcome mat are just two indicators of this important agency’s failings in the area of transparency. But the most significant transparency gap is that the IAEA has no comprehensive policy on disclosing information. There is no formal system to request records, nor are there public procedures or standards for declassifying very old records. Vault in late November 2014 began asking the IAEA if it has a disclosure policy, and to describe it, but no answers have been provided. In late March 2015, an official said: “Your query has been passed on to a committee that deals with decisions regarding what past documents issued by the Board of Governors are to be made public. It also deals with the issue of document disclosure policy.”

Some thwarted researchers have learned to successfully circumvent the IAEA`s closed archives by going to the archives of IAEA member governments.

Transparency at the agency has declined in recent years, according to some.

“The IAEA has never been very transparent and it seems that in the last four years the transparency that existed has declined,” said Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination at the IAEA and the Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.

One example was the 2014 closure of a major IAEA-sponsored conference. Another backward step was the disappearance of a list of Technical Cooperation projects from the website sometime around 2010.

Andreas Persbo, Director of Vertic, lamented declining transparency at a March 24, 2015, symposium in Washington on “The Politics of Safeguards,” sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Vertic is a London-based independent, not-for-profit non-governmental organization working on “building trust through verification.”) Persbo told the audience:

I’ve been going to general conferences now for 10 years, as a nongovernmental representative, and I’ve seen it go from an organisation with remarkable transparency to an organisation that is increasingly closing its doors. And it relates not only to access to documentation information but also access to meetings. Something that once was ingrained in the Vienna spirit, and it is today no longer there, sadly.

Since its creation in the mid-1950s, the IAEA has played an increasingly central role in nuclear energy policy around the world. While one of the Agency’s major purposes has been to promote the civilian use of nuclear power, it has received great prominence from its role in supporting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT): by maintaining safeguards to ensure that member states do not use civilian facilities for military purposes and by using its investigative powers to determine whether member states have created facilities that are inconsistent with the NPT’s objectives. The IAEA’s major role in the Iraq crisis and the current controversy over Iran are well known, but the Agency’s safeguards monitoring activities had their start decades ago, in the 1960s and 1970s, when the construction of the nuclear nonproliferation system was underway.

“Transparency is an elusive commodity in international nuclear affairs,” wrote Mark Hibbs on June 9, 2014, in the blog Arms Control Wonk. “Routinely cited as a universal virtue and not without a certain sanctimoniousness, this aspiration is sacrificed time and time again on the altar of political expediency,” commented Hibbs, a Berlin-based senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Transparency Gaps Seen

The transparency gaps do more than irritate journalists and academics, according to former officials and close observers of the agency.

Oversight of IAEA performance is inhibited by a lack of information, say experts.

No one disputes that the nuclear subject matter at times requires confidentiality for sensitive materials. But by not disclosing less sensitive findings in agency reports and policymaking documents, the IAEA inhibits both informed debate and compliance, some critics said. By not telling its story, the agency undermines itself, argue some supporters of the agency. One former official said, for example, that it would be valuable if the Agency would disclose information about the successful Iraq verification undertaking.

The agency’s secrecy has deep historical roots. Observers and Agency officials say the limits on transparency stem from the sensitive subject matter involved. Deference is given to member nations’ concerns about the confidentiality of their nuclear installations and their own roles in policy discussions. “The members rule, and they don’t want a lot of information that you would think you’d want available, shared,” according to Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Non-proliferation Policy Education Center.

“It would be helpful if there were a bit more candor,” he said, recalling being shown a nonpublic report that indicated how frequently observation cameras in one country were out of commission.

According to Anna M. Weichselbraun, a University of Chicago scholar, “I don’t want to say it [the records policy] is to hide the things they do poorly.” But, she continued, “I think they are very afraid of criticism.” She believes that “the agency does incredible work that is not recognized because of a lack of transparency.”

Weichselbraun sees a strong “public interest in having the records derestricted” and she recently argued for more openness in an article published by the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C.

A PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, Weichselbraun was imbedded in the Agency as an intern in the Safeguards Division while she worked on her dissertation, “Regulating the Nuclear: The Semiotic Production of Technical Independence at the International Atomic Energy Agency,” using “rigorous linguistic anthropological analyses of the actors’ interactional, ritual, and documentary practices.”

The debate about improving safeguards has been marked by “the tone of suspicion and distrust directed at the secretariat, triggered by perceived lack of transparency,” Laura Rockwood, a former IAEA lawyer, wrote August 28, 2014, in Arms Control Today. She is a senior research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

She recommended “education and communication,” saying:

The biggest challenges to effective safeguards and their further evolution are not technical. They are a lack of knowledge about the history of safeguards and a misrepresentation of the history that capitalizes on that lack of knowledge. It is possible to correct the former and to limit the impact of the latter through education and communication by raising the level of knowledge about safeguards and the history of their evolution. It is incumbent on all parties to understand what has already been achieved in strengthening safeguards so that it is not necessary to reinvent those achievements.

VienaIAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
Photo credit: photographer unknown, Wikimedia Commons

Another researcher who makes the case for more IAEA transparency is Cindy Vestergaard, a Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, who has been studying “the front end of the fuel cycle” — the steps of mining and milling, conversion, enrichment and fabrication of uranium.

Some of the IAEA’s requirements in this area are spelled out in a nonpublic series of Policy Papers, particularly papers numbered 18 and 21. These policy papers, prepared by IAEA staff, detail adjustments to verification requirements regarding uranium production and were made in response to technological changes. There may be Agency policy papers on other topics that could be of interest to outside experts and researchers.

Vestergaard is not alone among researchers who have obtained these papers unofficially and a top Canadian official has even quoted them in print. Although they do not contain information the disclosure of which would be harmful, they are not available on the IAEA website.

Not making these Policy Papers public impedes research and public discussion of policy, in this case about the chosen starting points for verification. As Vestergaard put it:

“It doesn’t make sense, if this is the starting point that is being clarified, why is it not being made available.”

Board Policy Not Followed

Efforts to follow the workings of the IAEA’s most important policy-making body, the Board of Governors, are inhibited by closed meetings and a dearth of documents.

The 61 foundational rules guiding the operations of the Board, which meets five times a year, discuss related topics — internal circulation of agendas and documents, and the preparation of meeting summaries — but there is no section on disclosure of such information.

In 1996, however, the 22-member Board decided that “most Board documents should be derestricted after two years and could then be made available upon request,” in the words of an agency official.

Inexplicably there is no publicly available record of the 1996 meeting, nor a written statement of the policy.

As a result there is no clarity about what Board documents should be released. The word “most” lacks definition.

Despite the secret decision, in the ensuing 19 years the Board has released very few documents.

One exception has been the release of reports about Iran’s compliance with so-called safeguard inspections. The most recent such report, released March 4, 2015, had been leaked to the media weeks earlier. It is called “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The February 19, 2015, report was later derestricted “at the request of a Member State during the Board meeting,” according to an IAEA official. Other such reports on Iran have been posted online.

IAEA observers believe more safeguards implementation reports [SIR] should be released. At the March Carnegie forum, former IAEA official Rockwood said, “The secretariat has, over the years, made numerous proposals to the Board that it release the SIR. I personally think it should be done.”

Even Board records more than 30 years old have yet to be derestricted, and so are unavailable to the public.

“As these records have all been digitized for internal use, they could easily be made accessible to the public on the IAEA’s website through a dedicated portal with search features,” recommended Weichselbraun.

Persons with experience at the IAEA attributed the Board’s lack of compliance with its own policy to several factors, including:

  • A tendency in the IAEA Secretariat to err on the side of caution,
  • Lack of staff resources,
  • Concerns that the technical nature of the Agency’s work will not be correctly understood, and
  • The ability of member states to ask the IAEA to keep confidential information about their country.

There are no publicly available minutes for Board meetings. At the outset of the latest meeting, which began March 2, 2015, the Director General’s statement was released and he held a press conference. At the conclusion of the meetings a press release summarizes the decisions. (See March 5, 2015, release.)

VienaCover page of record of IAEA Board of Governors meeting, 12 June 1969 (see Document 3). This and similar documents are off-limits to researchers at the IAEA archives in Vienna, yet are accessible at the U.S. National Archives, among other repositories.

Special Meeting Closed

In late 2014, the IAEA closed a major symposium that traditionally had been open.

The four-day Symposium on International Safeguards in Vienna in October was attended by more than 700 international experts, but was closed to the press and the public. The papers presented, on topics such as “Challenges in Spent Fuel Verification ,” were later made public.

Access was restricted so that participants would not be “inhibited” during discussion, spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. Only the opening and closing ceremonies were open.

Key Committee Sessions Closed

The annual IAEA policymaking gathering, the General Conference, which meets for a week, operates partially open and partially closed.

The Conference plenary sessions are public, but the real work is done in the closed session of the Committee of the Whole, which debates proposed resolutions at greater length, often making amendments.

Detailed summaries of the meetings of the Committee of the Whole are prepared. There were eight such summaries of the 2014 sessions.

The initial draft resolutions are not posted, however. Nor are the revised versions circulated during the Committee’s deliberations. Such modified documents were referenced in one 2014 summary:

69. The representative of AUSTRIA introduced a new version of the relevant draft resolution, GC(58)/COM.5/L.2/Rev.2, which had been prepared in the course of informal consultations.

The summaries are dry, but quite detailed. Compared to the minutes of meetings put out by most other international agencies they are exceptionally detailed. For example:

11. The representative of PAKISTAN reiterated his proposal to delete paragraph 7 (formerly paragraph 6). Failing that, his delegation supported the addition to paragraph 24 proposed by the representative of India. If paragraph 7 was retained, his delegation would be obliged to call for a vote thereon when the draft resolution was considered by the Plenary.

The plenary body, the General Conference (GC), considers the resolutions forwarded by the Committee of the Whole. Summaries (two in 2014) of the General Conference sessions are prepared.

The approved resolutions and other documents are found under the “records” tab of the GC website, sometimes with a time lag.

For example, the minutes of the 58th General Conference Plenary session on Sept. 26, 2014, indicated a discussion and a vote was held about paragraph 7 of GC(58)/COM.5/L.2/Rev.4. The resolution was not available to the public at the time, or in the weeks immediately following. This document and several others were requested by Vault in mid-December 2014. In mid-January 2015, an IAEA official from the public information office located and transmitted them.

The Director General’s National Security Report 2014 is another example of apparently slow public release. It is now available, on the records page for the 2014 GC, held in September, but it is dated July 22. There is no indication on the IAEA website that it was made public in July when distributed to members.

Archives Access Limited

The IAEA’s historical archives consist of some 5,574 linear meters of records — in a variety of media formats. But the Agency has no policy governing how long sensitive records should stay closed or when restrictions should be dropped.

“There is no regular, systematic review and declassification procedure in place,” according to Weichselbraun. “Individual requests for declassification or derestriction in the past have shown that there is a lack of transparency on which records remain classified and for what reasons.”

Researchers can have access to historical records, those over 30 years old, as long as they are not classified. Access to records that are less than 30 years old requires the consent of the Agency’s Director and the consent of the government about which the report was written.

One researcher was given a stack of documents, but without being told that others in the same series had been exempted from release.

The absence of a procedure for the declassification of classified historical records means, for example, that the records of the Safeguards Department, which has administered Agency safeguards at nuclear facilities worldwide since the 1960s, are off limits to researchers. So are the internal records of Board of Governors meetings; as noted, they are closed in Vienna, but meeting records are available in other archives.

For historians of nuclear nonproliferation policy, the records of the Safeguards Department are especially important because the safeguards system has been central to the Agency’s role in supporting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty since the 1970s. While safeguards records can include commercial secrets (e.g. relating to the design of nuclear reactors) which complicates opening up the archival records, it is an insufficient reason for keeping all of them closed.

Further inhibiting research is the lack of “finding aids,” commonly produced by archivists to orient and guide researchers, Weichselbraun pointed out. “In addition, researchers should be able to submit requests for ad hoc declassification reviews that can be tracked. An ad hoc review process should follow a systematic procedure with a timeline of expected outcome, as well as provide justification.” She also said the agency should move from a 30-year restriction period to the 20-year period used in many other international organizations.

And there is the lack of physical access for those who make it to the small records room in Vienna, which has four tables and room for about half a dozen researchers, but which is rarely visited. The Archives also has no virtual presence, not even being mentioned on the IAEA website.

The IAEA limits individual researcher visits to five consecutive days per month. “This is an unreasonably short period for serious scholarly inquiry,” wrote Weichselbraun.

Inadequate resources are provided to the IAEA Archives and staffing needs improvement, she said, commenting that “the persistent shortcomings in providing information about the Archives’ holdings and rules of access raise questions about the Agency’s commitment to transparency.”

VienaIAEA Board Of Governors
Photo credit: Dean Calma, via Wikimedia Commons

Frustrated Historians

The restrictive Archive practices have been a source of frustration to historians.

Jacob Hamblin, an Associate Professor of History at Oregon State University, is one such annoyed scholar, who described his views in a May 2014 article in which he tells of being approached by another historian jealous that he had found some IAEA documents from non-IAEA sources.

“[H]istory is key to making informed contemporary decisions,” Hamblin wrote. “Fortunately some of this documentation is available, scattered in national archives and private collections throughout the world,” he said. “But you won’t find it at the IAEA in Vienna.”

“The IAEA claims it is obliged to withhold documents until all of the countries mentioned in them agree to declassification. In practice, this guarantees permanent secrecy.” Reflecting on the agency’s role, he observed that it “is uncomfortable with historical facts about the quality of its workmanship.”

Working Around Restrictions

Investigators like Hamblin have learned that a good way to get IAEA records is by seeking them in the archives of member governments.

For example, records of Board of Governors meetings from 1958 can be found in the National Archives of both the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the Agency’s members.

The documents of the Board and its committees are distributed to all Member States, to the United Nations, to some of the specialized agencies within the UN system and to certain intergovernmental organizations. They are considered “restricted,” an IAEA official wrote, adding “(but the Agency is of course not in control of how the recipients treat the documents they receive).”

A sampling of the documents found in the records of the US National Archives shows a variety of available documents. (See more detail below.)

Roots of Information Sharing

Information sharing among IAEA members has its origins in the founding document of the Agency.

The exchange of information among members and from members to the IAEA is discussed in Article VIII of the 1957 Statute of the IAEA. The dissemination of that information appears to be encouraged: “The Agency shall assemble and make available in an accessible form the information made available to it….” This is interpreted, however, to mean sharing among the members.

That goal was acknowledged by an IAEA staff member who wrote to Vault:

Article VIII of the statute refers to sharing information about peaceful uses of nuclear energy. One way this is applied is through the IAEA International Nuclear Information System, one of the most successful and comprehensive information systems on the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.

A hint of the sensitivity surrounding transparency can be seen in the minutes of a 2010 Committee of the Whole meeting about “Strengthening of the Agency’s technical cooperation activities.”

VienaLogo of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A representative of the Czech Republic recommended adding the words “as well as the transparency,” so that a section of the policy would read “to continuously improve the effectiveness and efficiency as well as the transparency of the TC programme in accordance with the needs of Member States in all areas of concern.”

The next section of the minutes says:

12. The representative of the PHILIPPINES said that she had doubts about the suggested addition of the words “as well as the transparency”. A call for improved transparency of the TC programme might be taken to imply a lack of faith in the management of Agency technical cooperation projects.

The outcome of the discussion is unclear in the minutes, and a search to find the ultimate document (GC(54)/COM.5/L.11) on the IAEA website was unsuccessful.

When “transparency” appears in IAEA documents, which is fairly rare judging by a search of the IAEA site, it usually refers to communications among members, as it does in this paragraph of a 2010 document, titled “STRATEGY FOR THE TECHNICAL COOPERATION PROGRAMME IN THE EUROPE REGION.”

Transparency: Transparency between Member States and the IAEA and with partners in general in the management of the TCP will promote a sense of common purpose and trust, leading to smooth and effective delivery of the programme. A key element in transparency is good communication.

A LongTerm Strategic Plan (2012-2023) prepared by the Department of Safeguards, includes a section on Communication.

Communication Goal: To increase knowledge of, confidence in and support for IAEA verification among Member States, other stakeholders and the public. The openness and quality of the IAEA’s communications on safeguards and verification matters is of key importance to its Member States and other stakeholders. Their knowledge of safeguards and how they are implemented must be enhanced. It is also important to ensure that the public understands the IAEA’s verification mission. At the same time, the security of safeguards information is of paramount concern. To this end, the Department will:

  • Report safeguards conclusions and provide Member States with other information on safeguards and verification matters in a transparent and timely manner;
  • Keep Member States and other stakeholders informed of the objectives, processes and measures involved in safeguards implementation and how safeguards implementation is being further developed;
  • Keep stakeholders informed of changing proliferation challenges and their impact on safeguards;
  • Communicate the IAEA’s global nuclear verification mission to the public; and
  • Maintain an appropriate balance between the security and availability of information, further improve physical and information security and enhance the Department’s security culture.

Notwithstanding the references to “increasing knowledge” among the public of IAEA verification systems and keeping “stakeholders informed,” the Agency’s record in implementing these goals leans far too close to nondisclosure.

An Historical Coda

Forty years ago, officials with U.S. government agencies saw the IAEA’s lack of transparency as a problem, especially after India’s May 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion,” which made many in the general public wonder about the effectiveness of the Agency’s safeguards (even though India’s CIRUS reactor was outside the system). A draft message prepared in September 1974 by staffers at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission discussed the “need for the Agency to deal in a forth-right way with the concerns” about the lack of publicly available information on safeguards.

As an example, the AEC draft suggested that the Agency could “contribute to a sense of assurance” about the effectiveness of safeguards by “providing detailed data on what is actually done at specific facilities,” while still protecting the proprietary information and commercial secrets of the members.

A message from the U.S. Mission to the IAEA in December 1975 also addressed this problem: the Mission had been “actively pursuing with the IAEA Inspectorate the possibility of obtaining detailed information for the purpose of increasing public knowledge of actions and findings of the IAEA in implementing its safeguards.” The Mission reported that it would be working with the Inspectorate to “encourage the earliest and most effective results,” but it appears that those discussions made no headway.



IAEA Documents Found in National Archives

The following examples illustrate two things: that IAEA documents that are not available in Vienna can sometimes be found in overseas archives and they can usefully shed light on how the Agency operates and how its officials have thought about its role over the years.

Document 1: Board of Governors, International Atomic Energy Agency, “Official Record of the Thirty-Ninth Meeting,” 17 January 1958

Source: The National Archives (United Kingdom), Records of Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FO 371 135484 (copy courtesy of Elisabeth R ö hrlich, University of Vienna)

This is an example of an early meeting record of the Agency’s Board of Governors. As the Agency was only months old, discussion focused on organizationalissues, specifically whether to establish a scientific advisory council, and the development of a fellowship and training program which became a core Agency activity over the years. This record is unavailable at the Agency’s Vienna archives because Board of Governors meeting records are closed.

Document 2: Inter-Office Memorandum, Ben Sanders to A.D. McKnight, Inspector General, “Safeguard Tasks Under Non-Proliferation,” 20 February 1967, Confidential

Source: National Archives (College Park, MD). Record Group 84, Records of Foreign Service Posts, Records of U.S. Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Classified and Unclassified Subject Files, 1962-1972, box 5, Def 18-6 Nonproliferation (NPT) (January-March 1967)

Diverse agency information and documents show up in the U.S. National Archives. One such item is a report on safeguards for an NPT. In early 1967, when it was evident that some sort of treaty was in the works, Benjamin Sanders, a career official in the safeguards division, wanted the Agency to be ready. In a report to inspector general Alan McKnight, Sanders estimated what it would take to safeguard the known nuclear facilities of the prospective signatories to a Treaty. Using projections through 1969, he calculated the numbers of facilities in non-nuclear states that would require inspection and how many inspectors would be needed to monitor them. According to the calculations, by 1969, the non-weapons states, including Euratom members, would have 120 reactors along with 24 reprocessing and fuel fabrication plants. To inspect all nuclear facilities in the non-weapons states, including Euratom, the Agency would need 75 inspectors by 1969, some of whom would be resident, living in or near countries with more extensive safeguards requirements. Arguing that “early action” was essential, Sanders wanted the Agency to be ready by 1969; even if a treaty was finalized in 1967, agreements would have to be negotiated, and staff would have to be recruited. “By then the nuclear effort of the countries involved will have proliferated enormously and the urgency of applying [effective] safeguards will be immense.”

Access to documents like this would not be possible at the Agency archives in Vienna.

Document 3: Board of Governors, International Atomic Energy Agency, “Official Record of the Four Hundred and Thirteenth Meeting,” 12 June 1969

Source: National Archives (College Park, MD). Record Group 84, Records of Foreign Service Posts, Records of U.S. Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Board of Governors Meetings, 1961-1972, box 3, IAEA 3 Board of Governors Meeting June 1969

This record of a Board of Governors Meeting recorded several substantive developments and decisions: the reappointment of Sigvard Eklund as Director General (he served the Agency from 1961 to 1981), the possible creation of a special Agency fund of enriched uranium to assist the power reactor programs of non-nuclear weapons states, and the potential role of the Agency in the use of nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes (PNE). The last topic produced some amusing banter; discussing the Agency’s report on the matter, the Italian delegate Carlo Salvetti took exception to the assumption that the Agency would necessarily play a central role in helping states “benefit” from PNEs. “The tone of paragraph 13(b) of the draft report was somewhat reminiscent of the fairy-tale in which the stepmother used to ask the mirror: “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is fairest one of all?” The Agency, however, was taking its fairness for granted without even consulting the mirror. The Agency might well become the prettiest girl in the world of peaceful nuclear explosions; it was somewhat early to say that it was already.” The U.S. Representative Henry D. Smyth, author of the Manhattan Project’s Smyth Report, “pointed out that the Agency only wished to enter the beauty contest.”

Document 4: U.S. Embassy Taiwan telegram 8253, “IAEA Inspection of ROC Nuclear Facilities,” 15 December 1976, Confidential

Source: National Archives (College Park), Record Group (RG) 59, Department of State Records, Access to Archival Databases, 1976 State Department telegrams.

The IAEA had expelled Taiwan from membership in 1971, in favor of the People’s Republic of China. The organization nevertheless had safeguards agreements with Taiwan, including a trilateral Taiwan-U.S.-IAEA agreement, which it continued to enforce. In 1972, the IAEA had begun to inspect nuclear facilities in Taiwan, with strong U.S. support because Washington had been concerned about Taiwan’s nuclear ambitions.

This document reproduces the text of the Agency’s interim report of its inspection in July 1975. The information in the document is complex and highly technical in nature but what comes across clearly is that the Agency deployed visual monitoring systems at the Taiwan Research Reactor to ensure that nothing untoward happened (e.g., removal of spent fuel for surreptitious reprocessing into plutonium). The monitoring system originally consisted of cameras, but technical problems led the Agency to replace them with a closed circuit TV system which, according to the inspection report, was “operating very successfully.” With the failure of the cameras the Agency needed to conduct “extensive” gamma radiation measurements of the spent or “irradiated” fuel to ensure that it had been used as the reactor operators claimed and not, for example, in a way that would maximize plutonium production. Other installations were inspected, such as a reprocessing laboratory which could be used to produce plutonium from spent fuel but which was too small “for serious production scale reprocessing.”

The next year IAEA inspectors would detect irregular activities at the Taiwan Research Reactor; led to questions about the 1976 inspection and eventually to the closing of the facility.

Toby McIntosh is Editor of , published by the National Security Archive. William Burr is Senior Analyst at the National Security Archive, where he directs the Archive’s nuclear history documentation project. See the Archive’s Nuclear Vault resources page.

For more information, contact:

Toby McIntosh or William Burr at 202 / 994-7000 or

These materials are reproduced from with the permission of the National Security Archive

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Obama’s ‘Openness’ and Deceit

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 24, 2015

President Obama claims to value “openness” as a core principle of democracy, but the truth is that his administration has been among the most secretive and manipulative in modern times, tailoring what the public hears about foreign crises to what serves his agenda.

In disclosing the deaths of two Western hostages in a U.S. drone strike on an Al-Qaeda compound, President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he had ordered the declassification of the secret operation because “the United States is a democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad.”

But the reality of the past six years has been that his administration has enforced wildly excessive secrecy, selectively declassified material to mislead the American people, and failed to correct erroneous information on sensitive international issues.

A photograph of a Russian BUK missile system that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt published on Twitter in support of a claim about Russia placing BUK missiles in eastern Ukraine, except that the image appears to be an AP photo taken at an air show near Moscow two years ago.

A photograph of a Russian BUK missile system that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt published on Twitter in support of a claim about Russia placing BUK missiles in eastern Ukraine, except that the image appears to be an AP photo taken at an air show near Moscow two years ago.

This failure to trust the people with accurate information has arguably done great harm to U.S. democracy by promoting false narratives on a range of foreign conflicts. With all its talk about “public diplomacy” and “information warfare,” the Obama administration seems intent on using half-truths and falsehoods to herd the people into a misguided consensus rather than treating them like the true sovereigns of the Republic, as the Framers of the Constitution intended with the explicit phrase “We the People of the United States.”

For instance, the Obama administration rushed to judgments on pivotal international events – such as the Syrian-sarin case in 2013 and the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over Ukraine in 2014 – and then refused to update those assessments as new evidence emerged changing how U.S. intelligence analysts understood what happened.

Instead of correcting or refining the record – and pursuing meaningful accountability against the perpetrators of these crimes – the Obama administration has left outdated, misleading accusations in the public domain, all the better to fit with some geopolitical goals, such as delegitimizing the Syrian and Russian governments. In other words, providing the American people with substantive updates on these atrocities and advancing the cause of justice take a back seat to keeping some geopolitical foe on the defensive.

In both the Syrian-sarin case and the MH-17 shoot-down, I’ve been told that U.S. intelligence analysts have not only refined their understanding of the events but – to a significant degree – reversed them. But the original assessments, which were released nine and five days after the events, respectively, were still being handed out to the press many months later. [See’sA Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]

What is perhaps most troubling in both cases, however, is that the killings involved serious crimes against humanity and the perpetrators have not been identified and brought to justice. Whatever new evidence U.S. intelligence has collected could help track down who was responsible but that doesn’t appear to be a priority for President Obama.

In the MH-17 case, the timetable for the next scheduled release of information is on the first anniversary of the shoot-down, which occurred on July 17, 2014. Given that the shoot-down, which killed 298 people, should be an active criminal investigation, it makes little sense to delay disclosures for something as artificial as an anniversary, giving whoever was responsible more time to slip away and cover their tracks.

In the meantime, the U.S. government continues to re-release its initial claims putting blame on foreign adversaries – the governments of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin – so the assumption may be drawn that the updated analyses go in different directions, possibly implicating U.S. allies, such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia regarding the sarin attack and elements of the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in the MH-17 case. Whatever the truth, however, it is hard to justify why the U.S. government has withheld evidence in these criminal cases, whoever is implicated.

Double Standards

Of course, double standards sometimes appear to be the only standards when the U.S. government is involved these days. When ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine resist a coup that overthrew their elected president in 2014 – and get some help from Russians next door – the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media decry “Russian aggression.”

On Wednesday, the Obama administration declassified its own claims that Russia had deployed air defense systems in eastern Ukraine and had built up its forces along the border with Ukraine, assertions that Russian officials denied, though those denials were not included in the article on Thursday by New York Times’ national security reporter Michael R. Gordon, who treated the allegations essentially as flat fact.

After citing some analysts musing about different explanations for Russian President Putin’s supposed actions, Gordon wrote, “Either way, the new military activity is a major concern because it has significantly reduced the amount of warning that Ukraine and its Western supporters would have if Russian forces and separatists mounted a joint offensive.”

Gordon then quoted State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf saying: “This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August. … Combined Russian-separatist forces continue to violate the terms of the ‘Minsk-2’ agreement signed in mid-February.”

Though Gordon included no Russian response to these charges, he did mention that Russia had complained about what Gordon called “a modest program” of 300 American troops in Ukraine training national guard units, a program that Russian officials said could “destabilize the situation.” Gordon wrote that the Obama administration, in response to this Russian complaint. “declassified intelligence describing a range of Russian military activities in and near Ukraine.”

But the intelligence appeared to be just U.S. accusations. In Kiev, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted about “the highest concentration of Russia air defense systems in eastern Ukraine since August” and illustrated his claim by showing a photo of a BUK anti-aircraft missile system. But the photo appeared to be an Associated Press photograph taken of a BUK system on display at an air show near Moscow two years ago, as the Russian network RT noted.

Gordon, who co-authored with Judith Miller the famously bogus Times’ exposé in 2002 about Iraq procuring aluminum tubes for building nuclear bombs, has been an eager conduit for U.S. government propaganda over the years, including his role last year in a page-one Times scoop that cited State Department and Ukrainian government claims about photographs that proved Russian troops were in Ukraine but turned out to be false. [See’sNYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]

Yet, while Russia is not supposed to mind the forced ouster of a friendly government on its borders or the presence of U.S. and NATO forces supporting the successor regime, a more sympathetic view is taken when Saudi Arabia intervenes in Yemen’s civil war by bombing the country indiscriminately, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians and devastating ancient cities with priceless historical sites that date back thousands of years.

“They’re worried about their own security – and of course we’ve supported them,” stated White House communications director Jen Psaki. “But, again, we’re trying to redirect this to a political discussion here.” (The New York Times article about this “Saudi resolve” – with a similarly understanding tone toward the Saudis – was co-authored by Gordon.)

This pattern of perverting U.S. intelligence information to bolster some U.S. foreign policy agenda has become a trademark of the Obama administration – along with an unprecedented number of prosecutions of U.S. government whistleblowers who release real information that exposes government wrongdoing or waste. This double standard belies President Obama’s assertion that he values openness in a democracy. [For more on this topic, see’sPresident Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets.”]


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment