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Mainstream Media’s Main Source on Syrian Conflict Is a T-Shirt Shop – No, Seriously

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | ANTIMEDIA | July 14, 2016

Western media regularly quotes the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on statistics regarding the current Syrian conflict. Take, for example, this recent article from the Guardian, which reported the “UK-based monitor says dozens have died after [an] attack near [the] border with Turkey.” Referring to the SOHR as a “monitor” or “monitoring group” is a common practice corporate media employs to lend the organization legitimacy.

So who—or what—is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights?

The truth is stranger than fiction.

At the time of this article’s publication, the official SOHR website has been down for several days. However, an archived version last captured on July 5, 2016, reveals details about the organization. Founded in May 2006, the SOHR is a group of people—not associated with or linked to any political body—that documents the Human Rights situation in Syria. They assert their goals and aspirations are democracy, freedom, justice and equality. The founder and director of SOHR is Rami Abdulrahman, a Sunni Muslim who fled to the United Kingdom after being arrested numerous times in Syria. He never returned.

In December 2011, Reuters provided some insight into how this so-called Observatory, “arguably Syria’s most high-profile human rights group,” operates:

‘Are there clashes? How did he die? Ah, he was shot,’ said Rami Abdulrahman into a phone, the talk of gunfire and death incongruous with his two bedroom terraced home in Coventry, from where he runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Reuters further stated:

“[W]hen he isn’t fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.

According to the New York Times, Abdulrahman relies on four men from inside Syria to help collate and report data from more than 230 activists on the ground. The Times admitted the SOHR is, essentially, “a one-man band” operating out of a “semi-detached red brick house on an ordinary residential street” using the “simplest, cheapest Internet technology available.”

He relies on money from his clothes business, as well as small subsidies from the European Union and one European country he refuses to identify.

According to an interview with RT published last year—in which the SOHR director proved to be very elusive before he was eventually tracked down by the reporter—Abdulrahman acknowledged he personally has not been back to Syria in over 15 years, adding:

But I know some of the Observatory activists through common friends. This organization only takes new members following a six-month trial period and the candidate has to be familiar to someone from the organization or to a reliable outside contact.

To date, his informants remain anonymous, and he is the only individual listed as working for SOHR. Abdulrahman has no journalistic or legal qualifications, is not based in Syria, and relies on phone calls–yet the corporate media quotes his reports without question. This is particularly damning for Russia, as prominent outlets like the International Business Times have released articles treating the SOHR as an authority:

SOHR, which collects information from several ground sources in Syria, in a statement on its website, accused the regime and Russian air forces of bombing areas without distinguishing between the civilian and militant targets.

The ridiculousness of this reporting has been, in turn, chastised by Russia. As stated by the Russian Foreign Ministry through its spokesperson, Maria Zakharova:

“This information appears with reference to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in London. As we all understand, it is very ‘convenient’ to cover and observe what is happening in Syria without leaving London and without the ability to collect information in the field.”

Sounds reliable.

However, it could be the case that Abdulrahman scrutinizes every piece of information from his sources to the best of his ability. It could be the case that his sources are the most reliable sources inside Syria and are not trying to push a particular agenda. However, statements like, “I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes” seem to suggest the “Observatory” may not always be a neutral source.

But how would we know, anyway? How does the corporate media know to trust these reports?

They don’t, yet they quote this so-called Observatory on a regular basis, peddling a pro-war agenda in the process. The media treats its coverage of Syria like war is a game—as if innocent lives won’t be lost and the repercussions of a war with Syria are not massive.

When did the corporate media become so lazy? The fact that Western media resorts to quoting a t-shirt shop stationed thousands of miles from the Syrian conflict reveals something about the availability of actual evidence, especially when such reports purport to document the atrocities the Syrian and Russian regimes are committing inside Syria. This is not to say Russian and Syrian forces have not caused widespread damage and inflicted suffering on many Syrians. But surely, if the credible evidence existed to support those peddling anti-Assad propaganda, news outlets would likely not use a t-shirt shop in England as a regular source.

That being said, my girlfriend’s family has a barbecue business at the front of their house; perhaps I can start documenting human rights abuses in the Middle East for the establishment media, as well.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Brexit: A Workers’ Response to Oligarchs, Bankers, Flunkies and Scabs

By James Petras :: 07.14.2016

The European Union is controlled by an oligarchy, which dictates socio-economic and political decisions according to the interests of bankers and multi-national business. The central organs of power, the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have systematically imposed austerity programs that have degraded working conditions, welfare programs, and wages and salaries.

EU policies demanding the free immigration of non-unionized workers to compete with native workers have undermined wage and workplace protections, union membership and class solidarity. EU financial policies have enhanced the power of finance capital and eroded public ownership of strategic economic sectors.

The European Union has imposed fiscal policies set by non-elected oligarchs over and against the will and interests of the democratic electorate. As a result of EU dictates, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have suffered double-digit unemployment rates, as well as massive reductions of pensions, health and educational budgets. A huge transfer of wealth and concentration of decision-making has occurred in Europe.

Rule by EU fiat is the epitome of oligarchical rule.

Despite the EU’s reactionary structure and policies, it is supported by Conservatives, Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens and numerous Leftist academics, who back elite interests in exchange for marginal economic rewards.

Arguments for the EU and their Critics

The pro-EU power elite base their arguments on concrete socio-economic interests, thinly disguised by fraudulent ideological claims.

The ideological arguments backing the EU follow several lines of deception.

They claim that ‘countries’ benefit because of large-scale transfers of EU payments. They omit mentioning that the EU elite secures the privatization and denationalization of strategic industries, banks, mass media and other lucrative national assets. They further omit to mention that the EU elite gains control of domestic markets and low wage labor.

The EU argues that it provides ‘free movements’ of capital, technology and labor – omitting the fact that the flows and returns of capital exclusively benefit the powerful imperial centers to the detriment of less advanced countries and that technology is controlled and designed by the dominant elites which also monopolize the profits. Furthermore, the ‘free flow of labor’ prejudices skilled productive sectors in less developed countries while reducing salaries, wages and benefits among skilled workers in the imperial centers.

The EU : A Self-Elected Dictatorship of Empire Builders

‘Integration into the EU’ is not a union of democratic participants; the decision-making structure is tightly controlled by non-elected elites who pursue policies that maximize profits, by relocating enterprises in low tax, low wage, non- unionized regions.

European integration is an integral part of ‘globalization’, which is a euphemism for the unimpeded acquisition of wealth, assets and financial resources by the top 1%, shared, in part, with their supporters among the top 25%.

The EU promotes the concentration of capital through the merger and acquisition of multi-national firms which bankrupt local and national, medium and small scale industries.

Political and Academic Satraps of the EU Elites

The European Union’s oligarchy has organized a small army of highly paid politicians, functionaries, advisers, experts and researchers who support the European Union in a manner not unlike NGO workers in the developing world – answerable only to their ‘foreign’ paymasters.

Numerous Social Democrats draw stipends, travel expenses, lucrative fees and salaries as members of commissions and serve on impotent ‘legislative’ assemblies.

Academics advise, consent —and draw duplicate salaries from membership in the EU bureaucracy. Journalists and academics ‘front’ for the EU oligarchy by playing a leading propaganda role. For example, they have been busy slandering British pro-democracy, anti-EU voters by (1) calling for a new referendum and (2) questioning the right of the working class electorate to vote on issues like the recent EU referendum.

The leading financial press adopts a demagogic pose accusing the pro-democracy voters of being ‘racists’, ‘nativists’, or worse, for ‘opposing Eastern European immigration’.

In fact, the vast majority of workers do not oppose immigrants in general, but especially those who have taken once-unionized jobs at wages far below the going rates for established workers, on terms dictated by employers and with no ties or commitment to the community and society. For decades British workers accepted immigrant labor from Ireland because they joined unions at wage rates negotiated by union leaders, won by long workers struggle and voted with the majority of English workers. Under the EU, Britain was flooded with Eastern European workers who acted as ’scabs’ displacing skilled British workers who were told it was ‘progress’. This acted to destroy the prospects of their own children entering a stable, skilled labor market.

The financial press’s lurid descriptions of the British workers’ anti-EU ‘racism’ against Polish immigrant labor ignores the long history of Warsaw’s virulent hostility to immigrants–namely the refugees from the wars in the Middle East. The Polish government and population exhibit the most furious opposition to sheltering the thousands of Middle East and African war refugees, while claiming that they are not ‘Christians’ or might pose cultural or even terrorist threats against the ethnically pure Polish population.

Some of the British workers’ hostility toward Polish workers has a recognized historical basis. They have not forgotten that Polish strike breakers took the side of ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher’s militarized assault against unionized UK miners during the great coal strikes and even offered to export coal to aid the Conservative government in breaking the strike. As such, EU-Polish immigrant workers are not likely to integrate into the militant British working class culture.

The Polish regime’s aggressive promotion of the economic sanctions against Russia has further undermined English jobs linked to that large and growing market.

The financial press ignores the fact that Polish immigrants ’scab’ on unionized British workers in the construction industry, undercutting long-established UK plumbers, electrical workers, carpenters and laborers – who have multiple generational ties to their communities and work. The EU elites use the importation of Polish workers to strengthen the reactionary labor policies of the employers

After the fall of Communism, Polish workers backed a succession of right-wing regimes in Warsaw, which privatized and denationalized industries and eroded their welfare system leading to their own impoverishment. Poles, instead of fighting against these neo-liberal regimes at home, headed for England and have been helping the British bosses ever since in their own anti-labor campaigns to reduce wages and decrease worker access to decent, affordable housing, public services, education and medical care.

The Eastern Europeans became the willing recruits of the EU reserve army of labor to raise profits for industrial and finance capital thus further concentrating wealth and power into the hands of the British oligarchs.

To label British workers’ antipathy to these EU policies over the free entry of cheap immigrant labor, as ‘racist’, is a blatant case of blaming workers for opposing naked capitalist profiteering. It is not hard to imagine how the Poles would react if skilled Syrian electricians were taking their jobs!

The pro-EU prostitute press claims that the pro-democracy voters are ‘anti-globalization’ and a threat to England’s living standards and financial stability.

In fact, labor votes in favor of trade but against the relocation of English industry overseas. Labor votes for greater investment in the UK and greater regional diversity of productive, job-creating sectors, as opposed to the concentration of capital and wealth in the parasitic finance, insurance and real estate sectors concentrated in the City of London.

The EU-City of London-financial oligarchy have priced labor out of the housing market by promoting the massive construction of high-end luxury condos for ‘their kind of immigrant’, i.e. the millionaire and billionaire Chinese, Russian, Indian, Eastern European and US plutocrats who flock to London’s famous tax-evasion and money-laundering expertise.

The scribes of the EU-City oligarchy who claim that exit from the EU will lead to a cataclysmic breakdown are blatantly scaremongering. In fact, the stock and bond market, which declined for less than a week, rebounded sharply, as trade, production and demand were scarcely affected by the vote.

The hysteria-peddlers among the financial press resounded . . . in the minds and pockets of the City of London speculators. They rightly feared that their own lucrative financial operations could relocate overseas.

Conclusion

If and when the EU – City end their oligarchical control over the British economy, workers will gain an opportunity to debate and elect freely their own representatives and have a say in their own government. Leaving the EU is just the first step. The next move will be to change the rules for immigrant labor to accord with the standards of wages and conditions set by UK trade union organizations.

The following steps would include subordinating the banks to the needs of industry, investment in public housing for workers and the development of local technology for domestic producers.

The cleavage between productive labor and the EU parasites and their political hangers-on requires a new political leadership with a democratic foreign policy, which precludes overseas wars and imperial alliances.

The break with the EU logically and persuasively argues for a break with NATO and an opening toward free trade with Russia, China and the new dynamic global markets. The end of the EU can help weaken the strategic partnership between the European and City of London oligarchs. No doubt, the latter will not go without a class war of unprecedented ferocity, involving financial lockouts, manufactured fiscal crises, street mobs and parliamentary coups at the top of their agenda.

Only if the democratic electoral majority becomes a cohesive and combative class movement, in and out of Parliament, can they convert the referendum from a temporary electoral win to a stable basis for structural transformation.

Only a democratic majority can implement a fair and equitable immigration policy that strengthens labor and welfare policies and which would be based on the traditional values of British trade unionism and not on some criteria parroted by the ‘house servants’ for the lords of the EU-London ‘Downton Abbey’.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

“Those Damn Emails:” Comey’s Political Fix Unraveling

By Rob Hager | CounterPunch | July 15, 2016

Those “damn emails.”

Watching the new Bernie Sanders, distracted by his “awkward dance” to the tune of that damn Platform, one might think him unaware that he had his last best chance to win the Democratic nomination snatched from him in broad daylight. Republicans appear far more disturbed than Sanders is about Clinton sewing up the nomination by beating her secret server rap on dubious legal grounds. Since polls have consistently shown Sanders, not Clinton, to be the strongest candidate to beat their guy, one might expect not Republicans, but Sanders, to be out front on this issue. But its 2016, when the “progressive” revolutionary is endorsing the establishment plutocrat.

In last Thursday’s “emergency” congressional oversight hearings, FBI Director James B. Comey was questioned about his unprecedented Tuesday, June 5, press conference Statement justifying the Bureau’s mutually contradictory factual and legal conclusions from its long-pending investigation of Hillary Clinton’s “servergate” problem. Republicans under committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) conducted a professional, informed and fair interrogation of Comey that contributed to the debate. Comey’s less than convincing legal justification for his decision opened as many lines of inquiry as it closed.

Trey Gowdy, (R- SC), a former federal prosecutor, walked Comey through the false statements that Clinton told his Benghazi Committee in October. This evoked a sworn on-the-record FBI endorsement of what amounted to several counts of a potential criminal indictment of Clinton for lying under oath. One wonders if the FBI will investigate the question whether Clinton intentionally lied to Congress as gingerly and at the same level of competence as the FBI’s first limited investigation, which even non-lawyers on the Oversight Committee were able to effectively criticize.

Having virtually framed the indictment of Clinton for lying to Congress, Gowdy then delivered a Socratic lesson to Comey on the subject of how such “false exculpatory statements” by Clinton, along with Clinton’s pervasive and “complex scheme that was designed for the very purpose of concealing the public record” could have been used in the “servergate” case to prove her requisite criminal intent, the supposedly key element of the crime which Comey claimed he could not find.

Gowdy completed his attack on Comey’s central evasion for not indicting Clinton by instructing him that intent is rarely proven by direct evidence, such as Comey seemed to suggest was needed. “You have to do it with circumstantial evidence,” Gowdy said. Gowdy outlined in less than five minutes for Comey what the FBI was somehow incapable to piece together over many months.

Circumstantial evidence has been used in similar cases. In the notorious case of Jeffery Sterling, DoJ was able to imprison a CIA agent on the sole basis of circumstantial evidence amounting to no more than speaking to a reporter, a case that was partially motivated by retribution for Sterling’s racial duscrimination claim against the agency. Another entirely circumstantial case was made against a mid-level bureaucrat for talking with a reporter without direct proof of intent, let alone transfer of any particular information.

This initial examination of Comey by Gowdy and other Republican committee members supports the suggestion that Comey’s formal statement denying Clinton’s criminal intent, quoted below, constitutes one of a series of “coincidental shams and deceptions deeply rooted in a corrupt political system.” This sham includes a) the extended delay and timing of what appears to have been a superficial and artificially limited investigation designed to exculpate, b) the unethical ex parte meeting between Comey’s boss and Bill Clinton at the Phoenix airport, c) AG Lynch’s refusal to recuse herself for that ethical lapse, and d) instead abdicate the DoJ’s prosecutorial judgment to a political FBI Director, e) Clinton (who “believes in gestures”) making anonymous leaks that “she may decide to retain Ms. Lynch,” f) Obama’s endorsement of and North Carolina campaign stop with Clinton timed to deflect attention from the FBI’s criticism of her lies and “extremely careless” conduct in high office, g) unprecedented signature of non-disclosure agreement for agents on this case, and then h) the very nature of the Statement itself, both the unprecedented PR exercise of its being made public and the FBI’s straying well beyond its proper duties and expertise to make and announce the operative legal decision not to prosecute. Reciting some these coincidences Rep. Mica observed “what’s come down, it almost looks like a choreography.”

It may be only a coincidence that Lynch was appointed attorney general by Obama very shortly after Clinton started deleting her “servergate” files in February 2015. And it may be a coincidence that Comey was appointed around the time in 2013 that Clinton’s potential crime was coming to light. But was it a coincidence that Obama failed to appoint a State Department inspector general during all four years of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State?

Selling a Technical Fix for a Political Problem

The FBI does not prosecute, and does not evaluate or fire prosecutors. It investigates federal crime, which is a technical and not political process. It is not the FBI’s job to tell prosecutors how to do theirs, but rather to provide the investigation needed for prosecutors to make legal decisions based on reliable and thorough facts. Jason Chaffetz (R- UT) called out (3:34) how unprecedented it was for Comey to go public with such a statement, and then also to do so about more than just the facts discovered by the FBI, but also to publicly pre-judge the legal questions involved in a possible prosecution, indictment, and trial. Rep, Mulvaney also repeated this criticism as a question: “It is unprecedented that an FBI Director gave the type of press conference that he did and took a position that an unreasonable prosecutor would only take this case forward. Why would do you that?” Comey agree, :Yes, it’s a great question.”

Comey’s opinion was that commission of the crime detailed in the FBI’s investigation should nevertheless not be prosecuted because of insufficient “intent” by Clinton. This opinion was not only based on a failure to marshal available evidence, as Rep. Gowdy pointed out, but also a misinterpretation of well-settled law, as discussed below. It also prejudices any future prosecution the Justice Department might have decided, or may decide to pursue in the future, unless discredited as an abuse of the FBI Director’s authority

As Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department official, judged, Comey’s performance was “a gross abuse of his own power,” in part because he “substituted his judgment for that of prosecutors.” The FBI’s autocratic legend who was not shy about expanding the powers of the Bureau, J. Edgar Hoover, himself decreed: “We are a fact gathering organization only. We don’t clear anybody.” sixty years later, Comey has now added a corollary to this rule: “except a Clinton” when it’s time to determine the next president.

This unprecedented FBI polemic about Clinton’s intent violated the general rule that one does not ever speak publicly about a pending investigation or litigation because it can distort due process. It was dramatically improper conduct for political purposes. It is one reason why Comey should be at least fired, if not formally reprimanded or impeached by Congress.

The argument for impeaching Comey is that if Comey does not suffer serious consequences in public, the Clinton case cannot be effectively prosecuted. He has spoiled the case, and failed to faithfully execute “the Laws.” (Art. II, Sec. 3.) He has also established a dangerous precedent for abuse of FBI power that needs to be soundly rebuked. That is difficult to do in any other politically responsible manner than the constitutional process for checking inappropriate executive action, an impeachment vote by the House of Representatives. (Art. II, Sec. 4.) His errors in stating the governing law on which he based his institutionally improper opinion provide yet other reasons for disciplinary action.

This impropriety of the chief federal investigator acting as prosecutor, grand jury, judge, and jury arose out of the context where Comey’s boss Loretta Lynch had said she would abdicate to the FBI her duty to make the legal and political decision on the Clinton case, rather than simply recuse herself for her ethical lapse in holding a secret ex parte meeting with a potential target and surrogate of the main target of the investigation.

By making the legal decision himself rather than properly leaving it to senior Justice Department lawyers and the attorney general, Comey clearly did a political favor not only for Lynch but also for President Barack Obama, who also has a flair for improperly prejudging pending cases, as he did this one. Both of them would otherwise have had to take political responsibility, with an historically dissatisfied electorate, for an unpopular and controversial partisan political decision, the first of its kind in U.S. history, based on a distorted legal analysis. Both had conflicts of interest as political partisans of the same stripe as Clinton. Obama would have effectively pardoned his endorsed successor for preserving his plutocratic legacy. Lynch would be exonerating her potential future employer, who may well eventually appoint her to be the first black woman on the Supreme Court much has her husband appointed Lynch to be US Attorney.

Both the ethical lapse at the airport and the ensuing abdication, rather than recusal, deserve separate reprimand. In her hearings the barest scent of impeachment was in the air. Rep. Goodlatte (31), lawyer and Chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, and not known to make such accusations lightly, charged that Lynch’s abdication was “not [a]… responsible way to uphold [her] constitutionally sworn oath.” The hearing established that “servergate” was the first time Lynch had announced such an abdication of duty ahead of time, that she would follow recommendations of a committee rather than make her own decision. This abdication of responsibility under the pretense that it would remedy her ethical lapse, according to Rep. Jordan (2:13) actually “made a bad situation worse.” AG Lynch’s rehearsed, run-out-the-clock, stonewall demonstration before the Committee of “prodigious dissimulation skills” (Franks,1:50) in furtherance of her abdication bordered on contempt of Congress. On the merits, Rep. Gowdy who knows how to conduct cross-examination could not get a straight answer from Lynch to the simple question of why a specific intent standard was applied by the DoJ when the statute does not demand it, which is the central issue. Her riposte to nearly every question is that her sole decision was to in effect abdicate her duty and that questions on the details should be referred to Comey.

Comey’s highly improper public recitation of facts sufficient to indict, while denying Clinton, for his own political reasons, the opportunity to controvert those facts in court by indicting her was undoubtedly the price Comey had to pay to prevent mutiny from the professionals inside his Bureau. One former spy who is closely following the case predicted that “there are high-ranking spies who [we]re perfectly willing to leak the sordid details of …. exactly what Hillary Clinton did,” had Comey failed to make a credible accounting. But FBI investigators take institutional responsibility solely for delivering the facts, not for Comey’s personal venture into political fixes at the presidential level, nor for his idiosyncratic legal conclusions that Lynch improperly allowed him to make, with some cover provided by unnamed DoJ attorneys on a committee.

Evidence of Intent: looking in all the wrong places

Comey was able to make a political decision appear to be a technical decision by basing it upon his peculiar views of the evidence necessary to prove intent, at least in this one case. But as Rep. Gowdy explained to Comey, this technical decision about intent failed to take proper account of the inferences to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence that shows Clinton’s intent to break the law. For example, Clinton clearly intended to give classified information to her lawyers who lacked security clearances, as well as to allow her uncleared tech support to have access. Comey had no good answer for such facts.

Among the many lapses of judgment that Comey defended, he did not think it germane to an assessment of her intent that Clinton, and nine of her former top aides, refused to be interviewed by the State Department inspector general. A person of innocent intent would have no reason to avoid such an interview by her former employer on a matter within the scope of her employment.

Comey’s refusal to comment on the existence or not of a related Clinton Foundation investigation suggests that, contrary to speculation, those very public allegations of Clinton’s handling of systemic conflicts of interest was not part of the secret server investigation. Such a joint investigation of the two potentially related matters would have justified the FBI’s delay. Not taking into account the Clinton Foundation line of inquiry would exclude consideration of a potential motive for Clinton’s prioritizing over keeping the nation’s secrets keeping secret from the government her “private” emails. About half of the total were allegedly private, representing a quite intensive “private” life for someone in such a high public office. Investigator Greg Palast points out that notionally private communications because addressed to her family, did involve official business. That potential motive would have been far more nefarious than the motives that Comey does approve for prosecution in other cases, such as whistleblowing on matters of mismanagement or torture.

The damage done may also have been greater. William Binney, a former high-ranking NSA official, claimed that the “rather devastating compromise of technical capability and a commensurate loss of high value intelligence” from just one 2011 Clinton email released by the State Department may be “difficult for the public to understand and comprehend, but it is … much worse than what Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning or any of the other whistleblowers have done.” The email wasn’t redacted because it was sent to Clinton by Sid Blumenthal, a private citizen with no security clearance. But as shown in many other emails he sent to Clinton, he somehow had access to the latest top secret NSA information that revealed the NSA’s sources and collection methods.

As it turned out, such a motive of keeping corrupt activities private from government security officials and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) investigators might have been ineffective in any event. On the same day Comey gave his presentation clearing Clinton, the D.C. Circuit ruled that government email records on private equipment are subject to FOIA if they are not held under a claim of private right. See Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy (2016) (“If a department head can deprive the citizens of their right to know what his [sic] department is up to by the simple expedient of maintaining his departmental emails on an account in another domain, that purpose [of FOIA] is hardly served.”)

After reciting facts that have long been known by the public, and that contradicted exculpatory public statements by Clinton, the FBI’s operative finding delivered by Comey was that “we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.” In the oversight hearing on July 7th, Comey did not demonstrate a full grasp of facts, such as who paid for Clinton’s server. He did not personally interview Clinton nor did he talk with all of the “five or six” agents who did.   Another painfully obvious example was when Comey was asked by Rep, Meadows “did [Clinton] contradict some of [her] public statements in private? Because you said she didn’t lie to the FBI, but it’s apparent that she lied to the American people. So did she change her statements in [her] testimony with you last Saturday?” Comey’s incredibly ignorant response was “I haven’t gone through that to parse that…” Rep. Meadows requestedCan you do that and get back to this Committee?” When asked again by Rep. Mulvaney: “why she told y’all one thing and told us another?” Comey repliedI don’t know as I sit here. I mean, I can — I’ll figure that out” even though he agreed “that [could] have been of interest to you in helping to establish intent?”

This is Congress asking the FBI to apply one of its most common enforcement tools, trapping people into making false statements, as if it were some novel enforcement tool they had not thought of before. It will be important to monitor whether Congress will insist that Comey satisfy Rep. Meadows’ request, and Comey’s promise, to “figure that out” why Clinton is not being prosecuted for false statements to the FBI.

Due to repeated professions of ignorance of this kind, Comey’s formula that he did not “find clear evidence” was less than convincing that he looked in the right places.

Comey’s finding was not that Clinton’s conduct did not possibly violate the law, but an inference from Clintons’ “Whoops, sorry, didn’t mean to, won’t do it again:” Voila! No intent; no crime. As Gowdy’s questioning suggested, if when Comey used the word “clear” to describe the quality of evidence of intent that he was looking for he actually meant “direct,” that kind of evidence almost never happens in the real world. The evidence of intent, unless confessed, is always inferential, circumstantial, and indirect, not “clear” in the possible colloquial use of that term that Comey seemed to employ.

Since “clear evidence” is not a legal term, the country is left to guess what Comey’s subjective meaning for the term is. The impression left by Comey, which Gowdy forcefully challenged, was that indirect and inferential evidence was not considered by Comey to be “clear” evidence, and therefore Clinton could only be indicted if she confessed. Indeed, Comey distinguished the Deutch case on the grounds that Deutch “admitted, ‘I knew I wasn’t supposed to be doing this.”   The idea that no prosecution can be maintained without a confession is of course the most arrant nonsense. Rep. Duncan reported that when he was a judge he “saw many cases where the evidence of criminal intent was flimsier than the evidence in this case.” But Comey has so far gotten away with asserting the contrary.

The kind of clarity that Comey was seeking would have to dispel his opinion about, among other things, Clinton’s apparent denial that she understood classification markings within a text of a document: “I think it’s possible — possible that she didn’t understand what a “c” meant.” But then, in response to a question by Rep. Meadows whether it is reasonable to doubt such a denial, i.e., “wouldn’t a reasonable person think that someone who has the highest job of handling classified information would understand that?” Comey replies “I think that’s the conclusion a reasonable person would draw. It may not be accurate.” One can observe Comey retreat here from applying the legal reasonable doubt standard into some subjective standard of his own concerning “clear evidence.”

Provided Clinton insisted on her own ignorance which no jury would likely accept, if Comey was looking for other “clear” evidence of intent, he was looking for some abstraction that does not exist, and which the law does not require. No matter how much one looks no other direct evidence will be found without extraordinary investigatory measures. Comey was apparently not looking for it by using such measures. He did not disclose the existence of wiretaps to monitor Clinton’s private conversations for which he clearly did have probable cause. But the inferential and circumstantial kind of evidence that Gowdy recited, and which is commonly sufficient to convict of the intent element of all ordinary crimes where the issue might arise, was not discovered under Comey’s leadership because it was apparently not “clear.”

Comey’s “Reasonable Prosecutor”

Comey’s flawed approach to assessing the element of intent is discussed in further detail below. First, it should be pointed out that Comey offered this opinion, one that departed from the traditional standard of reasonable doubt in favor of some unknown subjective standard of his own, to support his “judgment … that no reasonable prosecutor would bring … a case” for Clinton’s “potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information.” As mentioned, this judgment went beyond Comey’s position as FBI director to give, and it was given on the basis of his own idiosyncratic legal test.

In his July 5th statement, Comey explained:

“Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past. In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”

Again, Comey probably did not “see those things” because he did not look, mainly because he was looking for the wrong thing. Clinton’s server did involve “vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct.” It was not just a mistaken channeling of a few emails through her separate personal email. It was systemic and vast removal of her routine official email traffic from secure government channels to her insecure private server domain used for her “hdr22@clintonemail.com” address.

This pervasive arrangement was therefore all but certain to expose national secrets.

Clinton deliberately commingled the personal and the public, permitting her to later delete the public’s communications under the unverifiable, and apparently inaccurate, excuse that she only deleted her personal communications. There is no reliable way of knowing what she deleted because the data was wiped nearly clean.

A fiduciary who commingles financial assets is guilty of crime. Clinton commingled real assets, national secrets owned by the public, with her private information, and put them both in her private insecure server. This violates several federal statutes.

What would be enough evidence of intent for a “reasonable prosecutor” to pursue a conviction for this violation is again left to Comey’s own subjective standard. An objective standard would be met, first, by restraining the FBI Director within the proper scope of his duties, then appointing a professional unbiased special prosecutor to separately assess the legal implications of the facts the FBI produced. The prosecutor should be free of political ties and conflicted interests, such as job retention or promotion in a new administration. Then the case should be presented to a grand jury for possible indictment to determine its objective validity.

That is the constitutional process to achieve objectivity in prosecutions of this political kind of matter. But as mentioned above, the case cannot now be prosecuted unless Comey himself suffers consequences for his improper and unprecedented conduct that relegated the legal and policy decision of whether to prosecute to his own subjective standards under the pretext of being a technical decision backed by the prestige of the FBI.

Before anyone searching for such an independent prosecutor takes Comey’s word about his standard for “reasonable” prosecutors, they might want to first check with his FBI Sacramento office about whether they would agree with Comey that Assistant United States Attorney Jean M. Hobler should be considered unreasonable for successfully prosecuting the case of a reservist named Bryan Nishimura for “removing and retaining” on his private computer classified material acquired when he was serving as a Naval Engineer in Afghanistan.

The FBI investigated this case as a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1924, and published a press release just one year ago lacking any suggestion that the FBI considered Hobler to be anything but a “reasonable prosecutor” for winning this case. Though not nearly as significant as Clinton’s similar crime, this case was virtually identical as far as the element of intent goes. Intent was not an issue. In fact, the investigation of the Nishimura case found no motive “to distribute classified information to unauthorized personnel,” which is not quite true of the Clinton case. But lack of wrongful motive was not a problem for the prosecution of Nishimura. Comey contended the Nishimura case could be distinguished when it was raised by a committee member at the hearing, but he did not actually say how.

Congress needs to ask the Director to put together a dossier of similar cases that the FBI has investigated, and that Comey might have thought could be distinguished although their relevant facts are similar to Clinton’s case. Since in his July 5th presentation Comey said “we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” we need to know if his definition of “these facts” include only relevant facts, or if he considers distinctions that are political or otherwise legally unpersuasive.

Congress needs to ask Comey for all the available legal memoranda distinguishing such cases as the Nishimura case, or the John Deutch case, and others, so people can determine whether these cases really are so different in principle from Clinton’s case after they have a “complete accounting of the facts” which Comey claimed they do not now have, but which he does have. It is almost certain that none of the cases prosecuted under the relevant statutes prohibiting mishandling of government records could be distinguished with respect to the element of intent.

Many commentators, including Representatives Gowdy, Chaffetz, and other oversight committee members concluded that Comey is operating within the framework of a two-tiered system of justice by providing an evasive justification of insufficient intent. The elite political class has one kind of law and everyone else has another. See Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (2014). At the same time that police are murdering people on the streets with impunity, the political elite in the capital is placed above accountability to the law.

Confusing motive with intent

Comey has not only misled the public by his demand for evidence that Clinton’s violation of the law was “clearly intentional and willful” according to some subjective evidentiary standard of his own. More importantly, in his discussion of precedents, quoted above, he deliberately confuses these terms relating to intent with the separate concept of motive. Comey’s description of his search for precedent suggests that he was not really looking for intent, but rather different varieties of motives involved in cases where forbidden material had been placed on private computer devices, or otherwise compromised.

As Supreme Court justices Alito and Thomas said in another context, Comey’s quoted statement about controlling Justice Department precedent “confuses two fundamentally distinct concepts: intent and motive…. [O]ur cases have recognized that a lawful motive (such as necessity, duress, or self-defense) is consistent with the mens rea necessary to satisfy a requirement of intent.” Rosemond v. United States (2014).

Any motive whatsoever, innocent or otherwise, can be used as evidence of intent, but rarely, if ever, can be used to disprove intent for purposes of determining guilt. From the defense perspective, the Supreme Court observed: “Motives are most relevant when the trial judge sets the defendant’s sentence …” Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476, 485 (1993) (hate crime). Thus motive might affect punishment, but ordinarily not guilt, except for proving the element of intent or as circumstantial evidence for identifying the culprit of proven bad acts, which is not in question here.

In the Sterling Espionage Act case, proof of an alleged motive for disloyalty to the CIA was virtually substituted for the lack of any direct evidence linking the defendant to the crime. Such trumped up cases invite a jury to illegitimately convict a person for imputed bad thoughts when there is insufficient evidence of the defendant’s bad acts. But where motive is not an element of the crime, evidence that one does not have bad thoughts cannot be used for defensive purposes, to exculpate, as Comey has used it.

In the end, Comey’s argument amounted to little more than an opinion about the success of such a “bad thoughts” case against Clinton. But it ignored that Clinton’s “bad acts” was all he needed to prove, and Clinton’s connection to those acts, unlike the Sterling case, are virtually unquestioned. By cleverly diverting his legal analysis of intent to the issue of motive, Comey made an inherently arbitrary political distinction between motives that the administration can tolerate by its friends and motives it disapproves. This is a violation of the rule of law which does recognize such political preferences but rather defines a crime applicable to everyone irrespective of their friends in high places or the kinds of motives their friends find politically unthreatening to themselves.

This highly limited, solely evidentiary, role of motive in all ordinary criminal prosecutions is shown to be violated by Comey’s reference to the kind of “intent” that he said was defined by Justice Department precedent concerning “disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice.” Such categories clearly involve motives for committing a crime and not the element of intent to commit the underlying crime of mishandling the nation’s secrets, and other government information. Whether it was done for reasons of disloyalty, obstruction, or any other motive in not necessary to proof of intent. These “fundamentally distinct concepts” of motive and intent are jumbled up here on Comey’s list of precedents together with his discussion of “intentional mishandling” or “intentional misconduct,” instead of focusing on the actual element of intent to commit the acts which constitute a crime.

In this context of Comey’s description of the precedent he consulted, each of these formulations appear to share a concern more about the motive of the accused to accomplish some specific purpose by means of violating the law, rather than looking to the intent simply to violate a law. Again, intent is an element of a criminal offense, but motive – with very rare and particular exceptions – is not. Comey has let Clinton off because he did not find evidence of a motive sufficiently evil by his subjective standards, even though under the relevant statutes motive is not even an element of the crime that needs be proven at all. It is not necessary to unpack Clinton’s motives in order to convict her of the crime. Her professions of innocent motive does not obviate that she had the necessary intent to commit the acts that constitute several crimes.

There is evidence, of course, that Clinton did reveal her motive by saying to a confidant, “I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.” This is evidence of her intent to make her own rules that would better protect her own inordinate interest in personal privacy rather than to follow the State Department rules for her communications to protect the public’s interests in security. Her publicly expressed motive for having a secret server was different. She told the public it was for her own “convenience” that she risked making accessible to foreign countries and hackers the nation’s secrets entrusted to her, along with “the personal.”

Clinton said it was for this interest of convenience that she wanted to use only one communications device, which is a somewhat less suspect motive than an unprecedented and unauthorized obsession with secrecy. It was Clinton’s decision, intent, to put both “the personal” and the public information equally at risk through her insecure server rather than risk some disclosure of “the personal” to the internal processes of the State Department. This judgment raises questions about whether she might be hiding from the public (although not from foreign hackers) information as important to her as the nation’s secrets.

An unnamed former NSA official familiar with the effort to get Clinton to obey the rules, now asks, “What did she not want put on a government system, where security people might see it?” She must have known that her own server was not only less secure than the government’s, it was also “less secure than,“ Google’s ordinary Gmail account, according to Comey.

The alleged motive of Clinton wanting to use only one mobile device for convenience appears to be a lie in any case, because the FBI found she actually had used more than one device. Apparently, Clinton bought an iPad in 2010, just one year into her tenure as Secretary of State, while continuing to use her BlackBerry. If Comey’s sworn testimony does disprove Clinton’s convenience motive, that she wanted to have the personal and the public communications all on one device, then as the former prosecutor Rep. Gowdy pointed out to Comey, lying about her motives would be highly probative evidence of her intent. Rep. Gowdy also contends “if it were convenience Director, she wouldn’t have waited two years to return the documents and she wouldn’t have deleted them four years after they were created” to which Comey made no coherent response.

A person lacking any intent to break a law would not need to invent motives for breaking the law, in order to disguise other more nefarious motives. A person with no intent lacks the state of mind to have a motive. Satisfying the legal element of intent only requires that Clinton acted deliberately, not that she acted with an particular subjectively evil motive.

Comey’s use of the term “willfully” in his “precedent” argument quoted above, as if it, like Comey’s subjective term “clear,” required some proof of motive, otherwise known as specific intent, is legally outdated. The Supreme Court long ago rejected the idea that, without more, the term “’willfully’ requires proof of any motive other than an intentional violation of a known legal duty.” United States v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10, 11-12, (1976). The sole question that “willfully” can raise is whether Clinton knew she had a legal duty not to “remove and retain” confidential or other national defense information, or otherwise mishandle the public’s information.

It is not necessary to parse Supreme Court decisions to understand the fundamental difference between motive and intent that Comey confused, since the distinction is embedded deeply in criminal law. A popular nineteenth century legal handbook, for example, stated quite clearly that “motive with which an act was done is immaterial in deciding the question of criminality. A crime can be committed with a good motive…” “Motive may … sometimes be shown in evidence; but it is merely as evidence of intent. Motive must not be confounded with intent.” May’s Criminal Law (Beale, ed., 2d Ed.: 1893) 18.

Comey, in violation of these black-letter law principles, precisely did “confound [motive] with intent.” In saying that Clinton lacked sufficient criminal intent according to the precedent he described, what he was actually saying was that the FBI did not have clear evidence of the kind of motive that he himself found sufficiently offensive, not what Congress required to prosecute her violation of the law. His argument, discussed further below, was that the unprecedented nature of the professed motives for a Secretary of State to commit the crime of systematically mishandling the nation’s secrets about foreign affairs that were entrusted to her was an excuse for exonerating the crime.

It was not Congress that created such a hierarchy of motives in the relevant statute, a hierarchy that would exonerate the unprecedented motives of corrupt elites but not the quotidian motives of those without power. In order to achieve the political aim of exonerating Clinton, it was her executive branch political allies, on delegation to the FBI Director, who reinterpreted the law to insert a motive element of the crime, where none exists.

Intent is Presumed

Even more important than Comey’s confusion of motive and the ordinary intent element of a crime is his related view of the amount of evidence needed for its proof. The fact of motive, being subjective, may be difficult to prove. The legal element of intent, once properly disentangled from motive, is nowhere near as difficult to prove as Comey wants us to believe. Again, it has been long established in criminal law that, “one [who] does an unlawful act … is by the law presumed to have intended to do it, and to have intended its ordinary and natural consequences.” Id. 19.

When Clinton arranged to have her public business conducted on an unauthorized private email server in her basement against the rules of the State Department, and therefore in violation of a number of federal laws – that act alone was sufficient to prove the intent element of the crime, the same as it would be for any mentally competent, sane, adult. The burden is on Clinton, not Comey, to prove by persuasive evidence that she peculiarly lacked the capacity to have the same intent any reasonable person would have in taking the actions she did. Comey therefore misled the public and Congress when he claimed that as a general rule prosecutors are concerned about “the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent.” Intent is ordinarily the least “especial” element of a crime.

Comey justified the fix by saying, “I don’t think our investigation established she was particularly sophisticated with respect to classified information.” A predecessor of Clinton as Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, lectured her employees that “if you are not professional about security, you are a failure.” Even if the kind of ignorance and failure in dealing with the nation’s secrets that apparently persuaded Comey about Yale Law School graduate Clinton’s motive were ever to be believed by a jury, or anyone other than Comey, ignorance of laws (not to mention Comey’s new standard of “lacking sophistication” about laws) concerning such matters is normally not a defense. When Comey was challenged by Rep. Farenthold on this point, Comey’s reply that “you must be aware of the generally wrongful nature of your conduct” did not exclude the case of Clinton. Comey acquitted her because of lack of very specific knowledge, not lack of general awareness that her server would contain classified information. Her ignorance defense would be even more difficult to sustain in view of signed documents where she acknowledged her understanding under oath, for example, that “classified information is marked or unmarked classified information.”

There are some obvious exceptions to the general rule that evidence of motive is unnecessary to proof of the crime, such as for hate crimes, civil rights violations, and treason where evil motive is an express element of the crime. There are also some less obvious exceptions where “Congress may decree otherwise” by expressly adding a “willful” element for criminalizing “not inevitably nefarious” regulatory offenses, such as involving taxation, or currency structuring. See Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U.S. 135 (1994). Neither has Congress generally created such a motive element for the laws intended to protect the government’s interest in secure communications, nor are such laws normatively neutral regulatory measures of the kind that do require specific intent. Moreover the government has not treated these laws as requiring a nefarious specific intent, in cases like the Deutch case where the motive was similarly simply one of convenience.

One writer who offers legal credentials as authority for rendering political opinion has supported the FBI’s decision to exonerate Clinton. He claims it was justified by “a legal concept called mens rea. As a general rule, most crimes require prosecutors to prove that an individual acted with a particular state of mind before they can be convicted of a specific crime.” First, this statement is misleading to the extent it suggests that “most crimes” require specific (“particular”) intent, or motive. As mentioned above, very few crimes do. “As a general rule,” intent is presumed from the commission of the illegal act, and prosecutors have little concern about difficulties with proving intent.

Second, criminal laws do not necessarily require prosecutors to prove intent. For example, a Florida drug-law was held constitutional that provided “knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is not an element of any offense under this chapter. Lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is an affirmative defense,” meaning that the defendant has to disprove the element of intent, with evidence that rebuts the common-sense presumption that people know what is in containers they control, whether it may be illegal drugs or classified information.

Third, this writer, like Comey, expressly limits his analysis to laws involving classified information, though other laws listed below were also implicated by Clinton’s secret server that go beyond just classified information to include all public records, or at least records involving national defense and foreign relations, without regard to their classification. On the assumption that only mishandling of classified information is prohibited, the mentioned writer thus draws the conclusion: “She had to have acted with knowledge that specific information was classified when it was transmitted. There is little, if any, evidence that Clinton possessed this state of mind.”

This statement, which reproduces the premise for Comey’s fix, can only be called nonsense in light of the description of the general presumption of intent from setting up insecure private communication that would inevitably include routing classified materials and materials about national defense and foreign relations through an insecure private server. No such specific information about any one particular communication was required by any law. Executive Order 13526, Sec. 1.4(d) (2009) defines “classified,” in part, as information relating to “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States” which “could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security.” Almost any information that a Secretary of State would be handling could have such an impact, some more credibly than others, since the Executive Order further provides that any “foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security.”

It is the job of a Secretary of State to deal with “foreign government information” for the nation on a daily basis. Comey was unable to disagree with Representative Chaffetz’ observation that Clinton would reasonably expect to be communicating classified information through her insecure server on a regular basis. Chaffetz pointed out, “She’s not the head of Fish and Wildlife.”

Unlike the Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C. § 793(a), which applies to anyone and not just public officials, those few laws that Comey selected as within the scope of the FBI inquiry regarding Clinton’s emails, for example § 793(f), do not require a specific motive that the mishandled information was “to be used . . . to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Under § 793(f) the material itself only needed to relate to national defense, which does not concern motive but rather describes the kind of information protected by that particular statute.

Neither statute mentions classification. The statute concerning classification is 18 U.S.C. § 1924 which applies when “an officer, …of the United States … by virtue of his office … becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information … knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location.” This is the statue which reduces intent to gross negligence, presumably because the classification requirement is designed to place officials on notice of the material’s importance. Similarly, the only specific intent statute of this nature is one that applies to the general public which cannot be expected to know what officials can be expected to know.

Clinton did not have “authority” for removing her materials from the State Department communications system and did intend to retain them at an unauthorized location, which she did until she was forced to return them nearly two years after she left office. There is certainly circumstantial evidence of intent to retain and never return the material, had the existence of her server not been discovered. Asked about whether “keeping the servers at home … obviously is not in compliance with the department’s policies,” Comey answered “Yes.” In response to Rep. Buck’s proposition: “that [Clinton] knew that she didn’t have authority to have this server in her basement?” Comey replied: “Yes, that’s true.” Any reasonable person would have known that classified information would be “removed and retained” by Clinton’s secret server operation. Rep. Buck established this fact by asking: “as secretary of state, she also knew that she would be receiving classified information.” Comey replied, “Yes, in general.”

No Precedent, or Bad Precedent?

Representative Gowdy concluded his questioning by attacking the lack of precedent excuse that Comey gave for recommending against prosecution. Lack of precedent resulted from the fact that no prior Secretary of State had systematically removed their communications including the nation’s secrets from the State Department to their basement where secrets were insecure. Over their lifetime of scandals and corruption, such as the engine for global conflicts of interest labeled “The Clinton Foundation,” the Clinton’s atrophied ethics have always tended to break new ground. The sleaze that led to Bill Clinton’s historic impeachment was also unprecedented. The fact that there are no precedents for Clinton’s particular motive for secrecy resulted in her extraordinary conduct in pursuit of that secrecy.

Both Gowdy and Chaffetz turned the “no precedent” claim around against Comey, suggesting that instead of lack of precedent being an excuse not to prosecute, that Comey was himself making bad precedent by failing to prosecute on the ground of lack of intent. There is now no disincentive for Clinton or her staff or anyone else not to operate the same privatized communications system whether in the presidency or in any other high position of trust, provided they have the political clout to fix the FBI Director.

Artificially limited scope of investigation

Comey reported only three possible charges that could have been brought against Clinton or her aides: intentional or grossly negligent mishandling of “classified information,” both felonies under § 793(f); and knowingly removing and retaining classified information from appropriate systems, a misdemeanor under § 1924.

Comey indicated that his recommendation was limited to “laws governing the handling of classified information,” although the statute governing two of his possible charges, § 793(f,) does not mention classified information. He didn’t mention the various other laws implicated by Clinton’s mishandling of her emails, nor by her misstatements about it in various venues.

The FBI apparently did not record or take sworn testimony of its interview with Clinton, one of the most important interviews in the history of the FBI. So Comey’s subjective judgment that there was no evidence that she made false statements to the FBI, a charge the FBI can usually gin up in such a case, cannot be objectively tested because the interview was not recorded and there is no transcript of the interview. Rep. Mica requested the “302” account of the interview from Comey and this must be made public.

Comey admitted to the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee that the FBI did not investigate lies told to the Benghazi Committee under oath because it did not have a “referral” from Congress. Committee chair Chaffetz responded: “You’ll have one in the next few hours.” Will the FBI also need a referral to investigate the other possible crimes committed by Clinton with respect to her email practices? These would include possible violations of 18 U.S. Code § 641 (one who “disposes of any record … of any department or agency”); 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (1) (exceeding authorized access to computer to obtain government information “unauthorized [for] disclosure for reasons of national defense or foreign relations”); 18 U.S. Code § 1512(c) (one who “destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record … with the intent to impair … availability for use in an official proceeding,” such as a FOIA proceeding, perhaps?); 18 U.S. Code § 1519 (the same, evidence tampering, to “influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States,” like the Clinton Foundation charity conflicts of interest or bribery, perhaps?); 18 U.S. Code § 2232 (“Destruction or removal of property to prevent seizure”); and 18 U.S. Code § 2071 (punishing one who “takes and carries away any record … in any public office”).

The FBI’s “thorough” investigation, taking 3 years of workhours, did not cover Clinton’s associates who sent her classified information and who clearly did have specific intent about particular messages, as revealed when Rep. Massie inquired about “someone down the chain being investigated.” They also seemed to miss the State Department inspector general’s finding that Clinton “did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act” and were therefore punishable under § 2071. See n. 41 and 44 U.S. Code § 3105(2). This potential violation was not within the scope of the FBI’s inquiry. Cf. Lynch (1:30)(“not under purview”) with Comey (Q: “did Secretary Clinton in fact comply with the department’s policies or the Federal Records Act?” Comey: I don’t think so.”)

Another matter raised at the hearings that Comey didn’t pursue was that Clinton may have had on her insecure secret server the names of covert CIA officers, the disclosure of which is a felony under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. 

Gross negligence

 Bernie Sanders has been preoccupied with convincing his followers that the Democratic Party platform is relevant, by performing his new role in the Kabuki theatre of the corporate Democrats. He is too busy acting out a supposedly important public debate over the irrelevant platform to get involved in this real and personal “servergate” example of impunity for plutocrats. Instead of leading his followers in calling for fair application of the law to his FBI-certified “extremely careless” rival, he was planning to endorse her for the Democratic Party nomination that was stolen from him, without effectively demanding party rules that would prevent current and future such election theft, and/or any other valuable bargaining chip in return.

Therefore, with the newly docile Bernie silenced from any effective action, it was left to Green Party candidate Jill Stein to point out, along with many others, that — aside from the above analysis of Comey’s legalistic obfuscation of the true legal meaning of and limited proof necessary for the element of intent – there was one violation that could be easily understood and accepted by all. “All the elements necessary to prove a felony violation were found by the FBI investigation, specifically of Title 18 Section 793(f) of the federal penal code…. Director Comey said that Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ and ‘reckless’ in handling such information. Contrary to the implications of the FBI statement, the law does not require showing that Clinton intended to harm the United States, but that she acted with gross negligence.”

Section 793(f) punishes anyone “entrusted with … any … information, relating to the national defense, [who] through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed.” No one disputes that the FBI’s “extremely careless” and “reckless” factual findings, which Comey described as common-sense terms that mean “real sloppiness,” precisely satisfy this statute’s reduced intent standard of “gross negligence.” Comey explained that he did not want to apply these literal terms of a statute that reduces the ordinary element of intent to this lower standard, He asserted some institutional disagreement with the statute, although it matches the precise factual findings of the FBI and the law remains on the books to be used to intimidate others.

This stand by Comey. if legally mistaken, would risk violating the constitutional obligation of the executive branch to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” (Art. II, Sec. 3.) Unless Comey can now produce a cogent constitutional argument that requiring lesser intent in this statute is a violation of due process, then his refusal to indict presents a separation of powers crisis. There is no governing precedent permitting the Justice Department not to enforce this law because it disagrees with it. Congress should either amend the statute to conform it to constitutional principles or alternatively insist that it be enforced on pain of impeachment for failure to execute a valid law so the Supreme Court can decide the issue. Leaving an invalid law on the books after Congress has been formally told that the Justice Department refuses to enforce it is itself of constitutional concern.

Beyond the response of requiring the Justice Department to produce a fully articulated argument for unconstitutionality of the “gross negligence” standard to Congress, one capable of convincing Congress to repeal the law, this gross negligence issue is something of a red herring from the real issue that Comey has dodged: the existence of objective evidence necessary to prove the element of intent, by his confusion of intent with motive. As Rep. Gowdy accurately pointed out, the problem is that Comey is “reading a specific intent element into a gross negligence statute, not even general intent.” In other words Comey is using the standard deception technique of setting up a false dichotomy between specific intent, which none of the statutes support, and gross negligence, which Sec. 1924 supports. Comey is thereby trying to ignore the fact that what Gowdy calls “general intent” or the ordinary intent element of most crimes can be easily proven by the evidence of Clinton’s conduct. Comey has in fact invented his own statute that would require not just specific intent of some important factor, but specific intent with respect to each separate instance of mishandling of classified material rather than general intent for a pattern and practice that any reasonable person would understand would result in mishandling of classified information. No reasonable legislator would write such a statute.

It is unlikely that Comey’s highly flawed legal explanation for the FBI’s institutionally inappropriate spiking of the prosecution of Hillary Clinton will escape the political verdict rendered by Trump and others that it was “rigged.” Whether the motive for rigging was more anti-Sanders or pro-Clinton, Trump will be its main beneficiary. He would almost certainly lose to Sanders, while it is likely he will now be conveniently pulling ahead of Clinton in the final polls prior to his next hurdle, the July 18 Republican Convention. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Washington rewards officials who are best at currying public favor, best at surviving, best at creating unfounded legends.” Such an official who has “spent a lifetime with one eye on politics and one eye on his résumé would have behaved exactly as Mr. Comey did.”

It is clear that by eliminating Sanders’ last best hope for nomination Comey has significantly helped elect his future boss, of either party. But Clinton’s history suggests that there is more to this deal yet to be uncovered.

Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua – Permanent Media False Positives

TeleSUR | July 11, 2016

Member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas are natural targets for the relentless psychological warfare of Western news media, because they form a resistance front to the foreign policy imperatives of the United States government and its allies. Right now, Venezuela is the most obvious example. Daily negative coverage in Western media reports invariably attack and blame the Venezuelan government for the country’s political and economic crisis. Similar coverage is applied to the governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Cuba’s revolutionary government led by Raul Castro and also to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega.

By contrast, the permanent economic sabotage, the attacks on democratic process and the cynical promotion of violence by the dysfunctional Venezuelan opposition gets a free pass. Likewise, U.S. and European news media have virtually nothing to report about Argentina’s abrupt plunge into crisis with 40 percent inflation and a dramatic increase in poverty after barely six months of Mauricio Macri’s corruption tainted government. Nor has coverage of the chronic complicity of the Mexican government in covering up the disappearance of of the 43 Ayotzinapa students or the mass murder of striking teachers in Oaxaca matched the hysteria applied by Western media to Venezuela over bogus human rights concerns.

No doubt political scientists could work out the correlation between adverse or downright hostile media coverage and official measures or announcements by U.S. and allied governments. What’s clear in general is that Western media coverage actively and purposefully serves U.S. and allied government foreign policy preparing the ground for otherwise categorically inexplicable measures of diplomatic and economic aggression. For example, the self-evidently absurd declaration by President Obama that Venezuela constitutes a threat to the security of the United States or the anti-humanitarian failure of the U.S. government to lift the illegal economic blockade of Cuba despite President Obama’s duplicitous avowals recognizing the blockade’s political failure.

Venezuela and Cuba are close, loyal allies of Nicaragua, now in an election year. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has faced a Western media assault over the last month or so with the U.S. government issuing a travel alert. The alert warns U.S. travelers to Nicaragua to be wary of “increased government scrutiny of foreigners’ activities, new requirements for volunteer groups, and the potential for demonstrations during the upcoming election season in Nicaragua…. U.S. citizens in Nicaragua should be aware of heightened sensitivity by Nicaraguan officials to certain subjects or activities, including: elections, the proposed inter-oceanic canal, volunteer or charitable visits, topics deemed sensitive by or critical of the government.” In a video mixed message about that alert, the U.S. Ambassador to the country, Laura Dogu, states that the advisory should in no way deter tourists from the United States visiting Nicaragua.

The travel alert appears to have been provoked by the experiences of a U.S. academic and also two U.S. government functionaries who were asked by the Nicaraguan authorities to leave the country in June. The official U.S. reaction has a lot in common with the mentality described in “Orientalism,” Edward Said’s intricate psycho-cultural map of Western perceptions of Muslim countries. Said writes, “The scientist, the scholar, the missionary, the trader or the soldier was in or thought about the Orient because he could be there or could think about it with very little resistance on the Orient’s part.” Translated to the Americas, the attitudes and behavior of Said’s orientalist are clearly present among U.S. Americanists, both governmental and non-governmental, and their regional collaborators.

The latest example of Americanist hubris here in Nicaragua has been a remarkably unscholarly outburst by Evan Ellis, the professor of the U.S. College of War who was expelled by the Nicaraguan government while attempting an unauthorized investigation of Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal. Ellis’ ill-tempered diatribe repeats a familiar litany of downright falsehoods, wild speculation and poisonous calumnies, attacking Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega as a dictatorship. It appeared in Latin America Goes Global, closely associated with the center right Project Syndicate media network. Project Syndicate lists among its associate media right-wing media outlets like Clarin and La Nación in Argentina, Folha de Sao Paulo and O Globo in Brazil and El Nacional in Venezuela.

So it is no surprise that in Nicaragua its associate media outlet should be the virulently anti-Sandinista Confidencial, which published the Spanish version of Ellis’s attack, making Ellis’ accusations of dictatorship look stupid. Addressing Chinese involvement in Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal, Ellis displays his ignorance of Nicaragua’s relationship with both China and Taiwan. His tendentious, ahistorical analysis betrays the mentality of an unreconstructed Cold Warrior in all its inglorious torpor. That ideological straitjacket prevents Ellis from even beginning to appreciate Daniel Ortega’s hard-headed but deep commitment to promoting peace and reconciliation based on genuine dialog. Western political leaders and their media and academic shills perceive that commitment as a sign of weakness, which explains a great deal about repeated failures of Western foreign policy all around the world.

Around the same time as the Ellis affair, Viridiana Ríos a Mexican academic associated with the U.S. Woodrow Wilson Center left Nicaragua claiming police persecution. Ríos entered Nicaragua as a tourist but then proceeded to carry out a program of interviews with various institutions for her academic research. The curious thing about her claims is that she was never actually interviewed by any Nicaraguan official, either of the police or the immigration service. But she claims her hotel alerted her to a visit by police, in fact if it happened at all more likely immigration officials, who presumably left satisfied because otherwise she would certainly have been interviewed. Ríos then supposedly contacted the Mexican embassy who allegedly and inexplicably advised her to leave for Mexico. The upshot is that Ríos visited Nicaragua only to suddenly fear, for no obvious reason, being disappeared by government officials who could easily have detained her had they so wished. Rios then, with no complications, left Nicaragua, the safest country in the Americas along with Canada and Chile, and went home to Mexico, a country with 28,000 disappeared people.

Around the same time, as the reports about Ellis and Ríos, the Guardian published a disinformation scatter-gun attack on the Nicaraguan government also firming up the false positive of Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega’s presidency as a dictatorship. The dictatorship accusations are complete baloney. Neither Ellis nor the Guardian report faithfully that even center-right polling companies agree that support for Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista political party runs at over 60 percent of people surveyed while the political opposition barely muster 10 percent support. Similar polls show massive confidence in both the police (74 percent ), the army (79.8 percent) and satisfaction with Nicaragua’s democracy (73.9 percent). Another common theme in the attacks by Ellis and the Guardian is the supposed suspension of the construction of Nicaragua’s planned interoceanic canal, based on yet another false positive -the bogus hypothesis that the canal has no finance.

The basis for this claim is sheer speculation based on the afterwards-equals-because fallacy, typified by another unscrupulous and disingenuous Guardian article from November 2015 offering zero factual support for the claim that the Canal ‘s construction has been postponed for financial reasons. That report and numerous others reflect the outright dishonesty of the Canal’s critics. From the outset the canal’s critics accused the government and HKND, the Chinese company building the canal, of moving too quickly and failing to take into account environmental concerns and also for an alleged lack of transparency. When the government and the HKND took on board recommendations from the ERM environmental impact study to do more environmental studies, the Canal’s critics changed tack, accusing the government of covering up that the Canal has been delayed because HKND has run out of money. That claim seems to originate in Western psy-warfare outlets in Asia like the South China Morning Post and the Bangkok Post which have consistently run attack pieces on HKND’s owner, Wang Jing.

This standard operating intellectual dishonesty by NATO psy-warfare outlets like the Guardian, omits various inconvenient facts. For example, preparatory work on the Canal route continues with various studies in progress, including aerial surveys by an Australian company, one of whose pilots, Canadian Grant Atkinson tragically died in a crash late last year. This year, the government reached a conclusive agreement with local indigenous groups affected by the Canal after an extensive process of consultation. This year too, Nicaragua has signed a memorandum of understanding with Antwerp’s Maritime Academy to train the pilots who will guide shipping through the Canal and also a cooperation agreement with the UK Hydrographic Office for training and advice in relation to the hydrographic maps the Canal will need. This is hardly the behavior of people managing a project in crisis. That said, the global economic environment right now is so uncertain that investors in any large project let alone one as huge as the Nicaraguan Canal will certainly be wary.

The global economic context and the Canal’s geostrategic aspect receive a more rational treatment than Ellis’ self-serving rant in an article by Nil Nikandrov. Even Nikandrov seems to accept as fact the Guardian’s entirely speculative claim that the Canal’s financing is in crisis, but he rightly treats Ellis’s Cold War style anti-Sandinista hysteria with amused scepticism. In fact, neither Nikandrov nor Ellis make the obvious point that the strongest geostrategic reality in relation to the Canal is that, should U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea accentuate into outright confrontation, China could not defend militarily the strong investment by Chinese companies in Nicaragua’s Canal. In any case, Nikandrov, rightly points out with regard to Nicaragua’s economy, “Nicaragua’s socioeconomic progress, Nicaraguans’ improved standard of living, and the stability and security there (compared to the increase in crime in most Central American countries) can all largely be credited to President Ortega.”

But even that reality can be turned on its head in the hands of a butterfly columnist as Bloomberg’s Mac Margolis demonstrated in his July 4 article “Nicaragua Prospers Under an Ex-Guerrilla.” Just for a change Bloomberg’s editors omitted their trademark “unexpectedly”, usually slipped in to any headline reporting unpalatable news. But the premier U.S. business news site could only finally recognize the incredible progress achieved by Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government by at the same time smearing and denigrating President Ortega in the process. On the positive side Margolis recognizes, “the Nicaraguan economy grew 4.9 percent last year and has averaged 5.2 percent for the last five. Although three in 10 Nicaraguans are poor, unemployment and inflation are low. Public sector debt is a modest 2.2 percent of gross domestic product.”

That apart, Margolis writes, “Ortega’s critics know a darker side. Consider the ever-accommodating Nicaraguan Supreme Court, which last week deposed opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre as head of the Independent Liberal Party – essentially clearing the way for Ortega to run unchallenged in the November elections.” This is identical to the dishonest argument in Nina Lakhani’s Guardian article. Montealegre’s PLI had around 3 percent support, under the new PLI leader that seems to have crept up to around 5 percent. The Supreme Court decision made no difference to the fact that Nicaragua’s political opposition has been incapable of a serious electoral challenge to Daniel Ortega since before the last elections in 2011. Since then Daniel Ortega’s popularity has grown while support for the Nicaraguan opposition has collapsed. Implicitly contradicting himself, Margolis acknowledges that fact but goes on to make speculative, fact-free accusations of corruption, directly in relation to Nicaragua’s proposed Canal.

Without being specific he hints at widespread opposition to the Canal in Nicaragua, writing “a shadowy project that Ortega farmed out to Chinese investors led by billionaire Wang Jing. Ground has yet to be broken on the US$50 billion development, but Nicaraguans have raised a stink over the lavishly generous terms of the deal”. While opposition to the Canal certainly does exist, 73 percent of people in Nicaragua support it. Evan Ellis mentions an alleged opposition demonstration of 400,000 people, which is simply untrue. The biggest demonstration against the Canal drew about 40,000 people back in 2014 when Nicaragua’s political opposition bussed people to a march from all over the country. Plenty of information is available about the Canal and Margolis has no facts to back up his baseless accusation of corruption “I’d wager a fistful of Nicaraguan córdobas that ‘Presidente-Comandante Daniel’ has something he’s uneager to share.”

Only the crass Americanist mind set could provoke such presumptuous contempt for the opinion of the great majority of Nicaraguans. Margolis really seems to believe Nicaraguans are so stupid as to support a President who he alleges is self-evidently corrupt. In fact, Margolis’ discredited protagonist, Eduardo Montealegre, has precisely the kind of corruption tainted track record so familiar from the U.S. government deregulation of Wall Street. Montealegre was the Nicaraguan Treasury Minister under a U.S. supported right wing government and oversaw a massive bailout of Nicaragua’s rotten banking system from which his own bank benefited directly at the time. Perfectly natural then for a Bloomberg columnist to highlight Montealegre while attacking Daniel Ortega who rescued Nicaragua from precisely that culture of abject corruption. This banal irrational attack on Daniel Ortega deliberately obscures the reasons for Nicaragua’s economic success, which shows up current US and European economic policy as faith based nonsense.

Domestically, President Ortega has prioritized poverty reduction, implementing very successful socialist redistributive policies and extensive infrastructure development. Overseas, his Sandinista government has dramatically diversified commercial and development cooperation relationships, in particular structuring Venezuela’s aid in a way equivalent to deficit spending, whose success contrasts sharply with the mindless futility of current Western economic policy. Contradicting the Bloomberg article, Nil Nikandrov is much closer to reality when he writes that Ortega is, “a faithful defender of Nicaragua’s interests on the international stage and enjoys the support of the vast majority of Nicaraguans.” As the NATO country psychological warfare media crank up their attacks on Nicaragua in an election year, it remains to be seen whether Nikandrov is right when he argues, “the subversive activities of the U.S. intelligence services and their ‘strategy of chaos’ will not work in Nicaragua.”

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada’s Liberal Government Joins NATO’s War Escalation

By Roger Annis | A Socialist In Canada | July 15, 2016

Canadians who hoped the federal election last October 19 would usher in change to the aggressive, foreign policy of the defeated Conservative government are wondering what happened to their wishes. The transition in imperialist foreign policy from the Harper Conservatives to the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals has been utterly seamless, if not predictable.

In the Middle East, Canada’s support to ‘regime change’ in Syria stands. The Liberals stirred controversy during the election when they promised to end Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led military intervention in northern Iraq. But surprise: while the Liberals did carry out a promised withdrawal of the six fighter jets that weren’t doing much anyway in the skies over Syria and Iraq, they ended up tripling the presence of Canadian soldiers on the ground in Iraq, to approximately 200.

And the new government made unpleasant waves when it upheld the export permit approval by the Conservatives for the U.S. arms manufacturer General Dynamics to sell $15 billion worth of the armoured personnel transport vehicles it manufactures in London, Ontario to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.

Sabre rattling by the new-same-old government in Ottawa has been expressed most fully during and after the NATO summit meeting held in Warsaw, Poland on July 8 and 9.

Canada and the NATO war summit meeting in Warsaw, Poland

The NATO summit approved a final communiqué which places the military alliance on a collision course with Russia. The communiqué voices NATO’s determination to escalate its threats against Russia, using the pretexts of an alleged “annexation” of Crimea by Russia and military intervention by it in eastern Ukraine.[1]

Clause five of the 138 clauses in the communiqué reads:

Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance, have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Clause ten details the alleged transgressions of Russia:

Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace. In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.[2]

Ottawa announced at the summit it will send hundreds of additional soldiers to eastern Europe to join the latest NATO provocation: it will lead one of the four, new, proto-combat brigades being established by NATO in countries bordering Russia. Canada will land some 450 troops in Latvia.

Ottawa is also re-equipping its entire army, including its soon-to-be Latvia force on the Russian border, with anti-tank missiles.

Canada’s voice has been one of the loudest amidst NATO’s anti-Russia rhetoric as first the Conservatives, now the Liberals pander to the extremist minority among the estimated 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian origin. That pandering was on full display in Ukraine when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to the country immediately following the NATO summit.

Ongoing intervention in Ukraine

The Latvia intervention adds to Canada’s existing military presence in Ukraine. Since last year, Canadian, British and U.S. soldiers began an intervention into the country consisting, in the first instance, of training the Ukrainian army and extremist paramilitaries at the so-called International Peacekeeping and Security Center in western Ukraine. Canada has 200 troops in the country.

The military training is designed to improve Ukraine’s capacity to wage the civil war it launched against the populations of the Donbass region in the east of the country in April 2014. There, the large majority of the population rejected a violent seizure of power by a right-wing coalition of conservatives, extreme-rightists and neo-Nazis in February 2014. When the new regime in Kyiv sent soldiers and extremist paramilitaries to eastern Ukraine to quash civil resistance against the ‘Maidan coup’, self-defense forces were hastily thrown up and military conflict ensued.

Prime Minister Trudeau visited the military training center on July 11. His media entourage reported a disturbing insight into what the foreign soldiers are up to there. A July 13 article by the Canadian Press‘ Lee Berthiaume wrote:

Trudeau flew into Lviv in western Ukraine before driving to a nearby military base for a first-hand look at the work of 200 Canadian soldiers who have been training the Ukrainian army since last summer.

From a distance, Trudeau, his son Xavier and defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance watched through binoculars as a Soviet-era armoured personnel carrier led a group of Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers toward a wooden building. The air shook as the vehicle’s cannon fired several bursts in quick succession.

The troops then moved away from the vehicle and spread out in a line facing the building. Four Canadians followed close behind as the eight Ukrainians slowly closed on the building while firing their rifles before placing an explosive inside and setting it off.

The exercise was the type of attack those Ukrainian soldiers could soon be conducting on their own in the east of their country, where the army has been fighting Russian-backed separatists for more than two years.

Trudeau’s son Xavier is nine years old. It’s not known what the “building” in the training exercise represents in real life. Ukraine’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ in the east heavily targets residential neighbourhoods. In addition to houses and apartment buildings, schools, daycare centers and even medical centers have been struck by Ukrainian tank and other artillery shelling. The ongoing reports of the Donetsk International News Agency document the havoc. (Latest report, dated July 11, is here).

Effective anti-aircraft defense on the rebel side is the only reason why Ukraine has not employed fighter aircraft against its nominal citizens, as NATO-member Turkey is doing in its civil war against the Kurdish population in the east of that country.

Earlier the same day, Trudeau addressed Canadian soldiers about their work in Ukraine. He said, “It has been a long time since Canada had to defend our valour and defend our territory. But we need to continue to work with those who are fighting for democracy and their territorial integrity.”

Trudeau voiced the usual NATO stories about Russia’s actions in the region since the Maidan coup. “Russia has not been a positive partner,” he told his hosts in Ukraine, speaking of the situation in eastern Ukraine. “It has not been moving appropriately on things like ceasefires and international observers.”

While in Ukraine, Trudeau also signed a “free trade” agreement with Ukraine. The agreement is unlikely to change much in the small amount of trade between the two countries. According to the Canadian government, Canada exported some $210 million in goods to Ukraine in 2015, including pharmaceuticals, fish and seafood and coking coal. Ukraine sent to Canada some $67 million the same year, including fertilizers, iron and steel and anthracite coal.

Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion trundled off to Latvia following the Warsaw summit to voice his own harsh language. He told a press conference in Riga, “A neighboring country [Russia] chooses to throw its weight around and cause trouble and international instability. Latvia and Canada, together with our NATO allies, answer the call both for strong deterrence and strong dialogue [sic].

“We will stay strong as long as the relationship has not been changed for something positive – as long as Russia is a troublemaker in the region we need to be strong together and Canada will be part of it.”

Dion said Ukraine, too, has been “confronted directly with aggression from our shared neighbour.”

What about the Minsk-2 ceasefire?

As with its NATO partners, Canada’s government tells lies when it comes to the ongoing violations by Kyiv of the ceasefire agreement for eastern Ukraine that was signed in Belarus on February 12, 2015.

Ukraine has failed to live up to all of the 13 clauses of Minsk-2. This was noted (though understated) in the aforementioned Canadian Press report when it said, “[Trudeau] called Russia’s recent actions in the region “illegitimate” and “illegal”, and voiced strong support for NATO members in Eastern Europe as well as Ukraine, despite rampant corruption in Ukraine and its failure to implement parts [sic] of a peace deal with Russia and the rebels.”

Ukraine continues its military attacks against Donetsk and Lugansk (the two former provinces of Ukraine which make up the historic region called Donbass). It does not recognize the elected authorities of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and so no progress has been made on a political settlement, including a regional election. Prisoner exchanges have been very partial. And so on. (Text of Minsk-2 ceasefire here.)

Canada, the U.S. and the rest of NATO have nothing to say about Ukraine’s dereliction of duty with the ceasefire. On the contrary, they accuse Russia of failing to live up to the agreement, even though Russia, with France and Germany, is but a guarantor, not a signatory, of the agreement. As the Russian government has patiently explained for the past 18 months, only the Ukrainian government and the rebel side against which it is fighting can and should decide what happens on Ukrainian soil.

The criticism of Russia by Canada is carefully orchestrated to shield the true state of affairs. In 2014, following the Maidan coup, Russia stood by the people in Crimea and then in Donbass who rose up to oppose the coup. This is what has infuriated the NATO countries. According to their script, Russia is supposed to act like the other countries of the region and meekly accept NATO diktats. In this case, Russia was supposed to stand aside and allow an illegal, right-wing regime in Kyiv to wage a violent campaign against civil dissent opposing the new regime’s pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity course to proceed. Oh, and Russia was supposed to meekly give up its historic, centuries old naval base in Crimea and turn the keys over to NATO.

The NATO powers are not used to defiance. They don’t like the “bad” example that Russia’s defiance sets for people or countries in Europe who may wish to battle EU-dictated austerity and violations of national sovereignty, as, for example, the people in Greece and, more recently, in Britain are trying to do.

The other large, longstanding factor at play in eastern Europe is the historic, U.S.-led drive by NATO to weaken and dismantle first the Soviet Union and now the Russia Federation. Events in Ukraine and Crimea have given the U.S., its allies and pliant media new propaganda ammunition to bamboozle world opinion and renew the post-WW2, not-so-cold-anymore war.

Media and Parliamentary opposition in Canada join the pro-war chorus

The obfuscation over Minsk-2 and the dangerous, ‘new cold war’ backdrop rely on a compliant mainstream media to dissuade questioning if not opposition by ordinary citizens. As in the U.S. and Europe, mainstream media in Canada does little or nothing to accurately inform the public of the true state of affairs in Ukraine and Crimea and the broader region. Instead, it is increasingly parroting whatever line emanates from NATO country capitals while adding its own unique stamp to the mix.

The national daily Globe and Mail editorialized on July 13 in favour of the Liberal’s latest moves. It wrote, ” The risk of a new cold war, let alone a third world war in Eastern Europe, is small, but Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and its thinly disguised subversion of order in eastern Ukraine, shows how willing President Vladimir Putin is to make serious mischief…

“The risk of leaving a whole set of countries [the Baltic region] virtually undefended would be most unacceptable.”[3]

The same compliance goes for Canadian Parliamentarians. A case in point is an op-ed commentary by Thomas Mulcair published on July 12 in the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper.

Mulcair is the leader of Canada’s social democratic party, the New Democratic Party, the third largest party in Parliament. He writes in the Star, “There can be no doubt Russia poses a significant threat to the people of Eastern Europe. In March, the United Nations estimated that at least 9,160 civilians have died in Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.” Note the writer’s named starting date of the tragic deaths of thousands in eastern Ukraine: not the launching of Ukraine’s civil war (‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’) in April-May 2014 but the Crimea referendum in March.

Mulcair writes further, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a volatile leader, not above searching for any pretext to escalate into violence.”

The op-ed expresses some unease with the decision of Canada to join and head up one of NATO’s projected combat brigades. Parliament has not been consulted, Mulcair complains. And he worries, “If military buildup becomes our only way of communicating with Russians, there is a real risk that falling into a permanent deterrence mode will lead to escalation and the re-emergence of a dangerous Cold War-style deadlock.”

But the headline to the commentary summarizes the essence. It reads, ‘Military-only response to Russia is dangerous’. In other words, a military posture against Russia is needed, yes, and so are additional measures. To wit, Mulcair says Canada should extend its sanctions against Russia’s economy. He urges adoption of a version of the ‘Magnitsky Act’ which was adopted in the United States in 2012 and which extended the freezing of assets and banning of travel by Russian political and business leaders. The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant working in the financial industry who died while in prison in Russia in 2009.

Evidently, Mulcair has not viewed the new documentary film exposing the propaganda campaign behind the U.S. law. The film is titled ‘The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes’. The Russian filmmaker began his documentary quest by presenting the accepted story of Magnitsky as a fighter against endemic corruption and favouritism in the Russian government. But along the way, he discovered a very different view of events in which the Russian government happened to be battling, not coddling, corruption, in this case by going after a set of foreign and Russian businessmen who had hired Magnitsky to manage their books.

Mulcair concludes his commentary with a repeat that it is “the Russian threat” which is at fault for escalating tensions in eastern Europe and that more than military means alone are needed to meet the “threat”.

Such is the state of official political opposition in Canada today on the Ukraine file, where ‘opposition member of Parliament’ means ‘compliant member of Parliament’.

Oppose war and militarism

Since last year’s election in Canada, the language coming out of Ottawa with respect to Russia has shifted ever so slightly. Stéphane Dion has been speaking of the need for “dialogue” with Russia. But nothing with respect to policy has changed. Canada is stepping up its military intervention in Ukraine and eastern Europe. It maintains the U.S. and EU-led sanctions targeting Russia’s political leaders and business men and women. It still calls Crimea’s referendum vote in 2014 to rejoin the Russia Federation a Russian “annexation”. It still accuses Russia of conducting a military intervention into eastern Ukraine.

The larger danger in all of NATO’s war posturing is the threat of nuclear war. Three of the countries ganging up against Russia are nuclear powers–the United States, France and Britain. Each of them are busily renewing and improving their nuclear arsenals, led by the estimated trillion dollars which the U.S. is slated to spend on new nuclear arms technologies, which it hopes might provide it with a cherished, first-strike nuclear capacity.

Progressive social and political forces in Canada that should be opposing the war posturing in eastern Europe have been largely silent. That’s because they have dug themselves into a hole during the past two and a half years by ignoring events in and around the Maidan coup in Ukraine or, worse, by buying into the NATO rhetoric of ‘aggressive Russia’ and ‘imperialist Russia’. Ignorance and prejudice about Russia, rather than factual analysis, rules the day.

As Canadians begin to rebuild an antiwar movement out of the ashes of the old, three key demands should come to the fore. One is to end the sanctions, threats and outright attacks by NATO and Ukraine against Russia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Two is to demand that the government in Kyiv implement the terms of the ceasefire agreement it signed in Minsk in February 2015.

Thirdly and fourthly, it is high time to renew two historic demands of the peace and antiwar movements over the decades which, sadly, have a new urgency:
Abolish nuclear weapons!

Canada out of the NATO alliance!

Notes:

[1] On March 16, 2014, the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation. The vote was conducted by the elected, autonomous assembly of Crimea. The March 2014 referendum was prompted by the violent overthrow one month earlier of the elected president of Ukraine. Victor Yanukovych had received the large majority of votes in Crimea in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election.

Crimea was annexed to then-Soviet Ukraine in 1954 by a decision of the government of the USSR in order to facilitate post-WW2 reconstruction. But the Crimean people were given no vote on the matter.

[2] Clause ten of the NATO communiqué introduces a novel concept into international diplomacy: not only do nation states and countries (or parts thereof) have “borders”; apparently, self-proclaimed military alliances have borders, too. Clause ten of the NATO communiqué refers to “NATO borders [sic], including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean”.

[3] With one exception–the Toronto Star–the entirety of Canada’s print mainstream media supported the re-election of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the October 19, 2015 election.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

No Chilcot for Copenhagen: Denmark Hushes up Crucial Iraq War Document

Sputnik | July 15, 2016

Denmark has decided to spare its former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen the embarrassment his British colleague Tony Blair experienced for involving his country in the war in Iraq by keeping vital documents away from the public eye.

Unlike the United Kingdom, which last week published the Chilcot Report, which unleashed strong criticism of Tony Blair’s Iraqi venture, Denmark decided to block a secret note regarding the 2003 Iraq War from public access, obviously with the intention of shielding its former Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from similar scrutiny.

Whereas a batch of documents, including communications between Blair and former US President George W. Bush, were made available for public download after the publication of the Chilcot Report, a similar 14-year old document written by Rasmussen amid preparations for the US-led invasion of Iraq will be kept under wraps, Jyllands-Posten reported.

According to Denmark’s parliamentary ombudsman, Danish law prohibits the publication of such material, which was described as “potentially damaging for other countries.” Therefore, the document will be kept classified in accordance with the controversial 2013 Freedom of Information Law.

The debated document relates to a meeting between Rasmussen and then-US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 2002, which is widely believed to have pushed Denmark into the US-led campaign to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Remarkably, Copenhagen opposes the very idea of shedding light on Denmark’s involvement in the bloody war, which threw Iraq into chaos and left millions dead as the nation was turned into a battleground. In 2015, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen controversially cancelled a government inquiry into the Iraq War shortly after taking office.

A number of opposition politicians have been calling for the document to be made public, despite the perpetual blockade by the government. The background for Denmark’s military involvement in the wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan should be examined through an independent investigation, the Red-Green Alliance stated. According to party spokesperson Eva Flyvholm, Denmark should investigate this painful period to be able to learn from its mistakes and look forward, the Danish newspaper Extra Bladet reported.

Denmark has been a loyal NATO associate ever since it joined the alliance as a founding member. Over the past decades, Danish soldiers fought in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. Anders Fogh Rasmussen was Danish Prime Minister from 2001 to 2009, whereupon he went on to become NATO Secretary General and remained in office until October 2014.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

French PM Manuel Vas: ‘We Must Learn to Live with the Terror, Like Israel’

21st Century Wire | July 15, 2016

In the aftermath of last night’s bizarre ‘terrorist’ attack in Nice, France, one of the most poplar talking points which appears throughout much of the western media coverage is this idea that terrorism is now a ‘normal part of our everyday lives’ and that a permanent state of military alert at home is something the public needs to get used to.

One of the central voices of this police state talking is French Prime Minister and avid Israeli advocate Manuel Valls. Earlier today Valls stated that, “France has to learn to live with terrorism.”

In this way, the security state is attempting to integrate terrorism as a day-to-day 24/7, 365 day per week agenda issue – which is said to require a hyper-militarized security state, just like Israel (notice how Israel is invoked by neoconservatives and western Zionist supports ad nauseam in the security conversation), to deal with ‘the threat.’

This seems to be the cornerstone of Valls’ political relevance, which he has basically repeated over and over, for the better part of the last two years despite the fact that both the Charlie Hebdo and Paris Bataclan events exhibited very clear signs of GLADIO-style domestic terror stage play.

Back in February, at the Munich Security Conference  he stated the exact same thing:

“We have entered – we all feel it – a new era characterised by the lasting presence of ‘hyper-terrorism.’

“We must be fully conscious of the threat, and react with a very great force and great lucidity. There will be attacks. Large-scale attacks. It’s a certainty. This hyper-terrorism is here to stay.”

2-benjamin-netanyahu-valls-france-israel copy
TERROR SUMMIT: Admitted Zionist Manuel Valls pictured together with Israel’s fundamentalist Zionist leader Benjamin Netanyahu

In January 2016, while addressing an Israeli lobby delegation, Valls read off a list of ‘ISIS’ terrorist attacks along with other ‘terrorist’ incidents in Israel, claiming that this was proof that, “we are in a world war”, while not ever uttering a word about Israel’s brutal, militarized occupation and their systematic ethnic cleansing regime waged against the native Palestinian residents since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Israeli CRIF spokesman Roger Cukierman applauded Valls’s single-sided adherence to the Israeli lobby, by saying, “On a number of occasions, you said very powerful things: That anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, that France without its Jews is no longer France,” Cukierman said. “This makes you a dear politician.”

Is this a case of the state and its transnational security conglomerates manipulating the public into unquestioningly accepting an indefinite siege mentality and a permanent, full-blown police state?

It appears once again, that we are witnessing an attempt to transform large parts of western society – through a further realignment of public and state political and economic priorities into what is commonly referred to as “security theatre,” which, in reality, has nothing to do with actual security, and everything to do with domestic political and geopolitical theatre.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , | 2 Comments

“MH17 two years on”: Luke Harding’s cynical exploitation of one family’s pain

OffGuardian | July 14, 2016

If Luke Harding’s wild-eyed narcissism was less in tune with the current western agenda then his editors at the Guardian might be taking him aside and quietly suggesting counselling and medication. But things being as they are, his narratives of battling Demon Russia and its Empire of Evil tend to make the front page, however rabidly insane, libellously mendacious or simply cringeworthy they may be.

But yesterday the Guardian unleashed this:

notatallbiasedheadlinehardingmh17

Absorb the headline and the intent behind it. Something of a tour de force of moral bankruptcy even for the team that brought you the Polonium story. We don’t just get racism, warmongering and towering falsehoods here. No – we can also experience the exploitation of 20 year old Richard Mayne’s short life and tragic death and his family’s pain! So sit back and enjoy as Harding rushes in where the sane and ethical might fear to tread, boldly turning one family’s unspeakable tragedy into grist for his own Putin-hate mill.

You see, happily for Luke and the pro-war agenda, Richard was killed on board MH17, and his parents blame Vladimir Putin…

Amid their grief, the Maynes came to a grim conclusion: Richard had been murdered. The man whom they believe murdered him is Vladimir Putin. It was Putin, they believe, who gave orders for the Russian military to cross the border, setting in train a series of consequences, including the shooting down of MH17 and 10,000 dead in the conflict.

Let’s be crystal clear at this point. No one can blame this family for their anger. They’re desperate and grief-stricken and need someone to be punished for the crime that took their son. The fact Putin is their target is an understandable human response, and no one could condemn them.

But even in a world of wall-to-wall media deception there’s something freshly disgusting in the way this piece weaves saccharine “sympathy” for the tragically bereaved into a simplistic narrative of polarity and hatred, likely to produce nothing but more death, and more grieving families like the Maynes.

Here are just a few examples, starting with the least egregious:

In the previous week, the Russian defence ministry had provided the rebels with an array of heavy weaponry: tanks, artillery pieces and mortars. Plus undercover soldiers disguised as “volunteers”.

If Harding had prefaced this claim with “it’s rumoured” or “it has been claimed” he would be doing something closer to journalism. And if he also mentioned the counter-claims that NATO is supplying the Kiev government with weapons, or the evidence for NATO-backed mercenaries fighting for the Kiev government, or the claims of the Kiev government’s war crimes against its own people (including the use of white phosphorous, which is banned under UN rulings), there’d be something approaching balance here.

But of course none of this has any direct evidential bearing on the fate of MH17 anyway, since tanks, artillery pieces and mortars were not in any way involved in shooting down that plane. Harding is merely trying to evade the facts and plant a perception of guilt by associated ideas. But it gets a lot worse.

The Buk arrived after Ukrainian war planes started bombing rebel positions and government troops were taking back territory. Suddenly, Ukrainian military aircraft were being blown from the sky.

Note how he completely elides the fact that a Dutch Intelligence report stated only the UAF had the operational capacity to shoot down a jet liner at 20,000+ feet, and the only Ukrainian planes “blown from the skies” were taken down at comparatively low altitudes by ManPads or “light” anti-aircraft guns not BUK. If his sentence ran something like: “unverified claims have been made that a BUK arrived some time before July 17, but the only planes known to have been downed by the rebels before or after this date were brought down using portable Manpads or light SAMs”, it would be broadly definable as honest.

And then we get this:

Certainly, Russia has done everything it can to cover up the crime. The Kremlin used its UN security council veto to stop an international investigation similar to that carried out following the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing.

Getting into his stride, Luke abandons implications and guilt by juxtaposition in favour of his old standby – the outright lie. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how completely unfazed he is by the total absence of evidence anywhere that Russia covered up anything, or by the small detail that Russia did not veto an “international investigation”, at all but in fact supported UN Resolution 2166 that called for “efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines”. What does Luke think the Dutch Safety Board international investigation was if not – well, an international investigation? Is he not aware Russia supported it and supplied it with evidence?

We can be charitable and assume Harding means the proposal for a UN tribunal. Russia did veto that, it’s true, because – it argued – this was unprecedented and also premature to begin a second international investigation while the first was still underway. But this is not the same thing at all as vetoing an “international enquiry,” and Harding is surely aware of that. His narrative here amounts to a total reversal of known and established facts.
But he ain’t done yet…

Last October, a Dutch safety board report confirmed that a Buk missile launched from rebel-controlled territory hit MH17…

Is Luke trying to make us think the DSB directly blamed the “rebels” for shooting down MH17? Because to the unwary it might read as if that is what they did. But of course it isn’t, and Luke knows it. The DSB report concluded a BUK was probably responsible for the destruction of MH17 (though this is by no means conclusive), but it did not say which side had fired the missile because it could not pin down the probable launch area in a narrow enough corridor to make such a statement feasible. The claim of “rebel-conrolled territory” is word-fog designed to create the illusion of accusation where none exists.

The Buk’s crew appear to have fired on MH17 by mistake. At 5.50pm Moscow time, their leader Igor Strelkov, a veteran Russian intelligence officer, tweeted that his men had shot down another Ukrainian transport – or “bird”, as he put it.

All we need to do is note the weasel-words “appear to.” Another Harding trademark. They translate as “I want you to believe it but I have no evidence whatsoever that anything even remotely resembling this actually happened”. Admire also how he breezes right past the fact the DPR denied this tweet, and the account it emanated from, had anything to do with Strelkov at all.

You don’t have to believe it, Luke, but you do have to report it, particularly when you are building your story around the need of a bereaved family for justice.

I could go on. I could talk about Harding’s complete elision of the numerous uncertainties and controversies still surrounding almost every aspect of the incident in favour of a groundless certitude. His refusal to acknowledge the fact there is still no agreement over what shot MH17 out of the sky, never mind who (was it a BUK, as the corporate media claim, not a BUK, an SU-25, definitely NOT an SU-25, or something else again?). Or his absolute refusal to even acknowledge the fact the UAF is known to have had over 20 working BUK, while the rebels are only rumoured to have had one. Or the virtual impossibility of an untrained amateur crew being able to use one “acquired” BUK to take down anything. Or the Russian satellite data, all but ignored by western media, that seems to suggest very strange shenanigans immediately prior to the take-down of the plane. Or the numerous questions and accusations hanging over the DSB’s final report.

But you probably get the picture. The depth of the lie here and the fragility of their control over their own narrative is evidenced BTL. The comments were opened for less than three hours and at close the final page looked like this:

decimatedcommentsectionlukehardingmh17article

Other comments were simply airbrushed away in totality (we’ve all experienced that). One reader even tells us his account of 18 months standing was permanently disabled simply because he pointed out that Eliot Higgins’ work has been described as “propaganda.” Harding, of course, is known to fear the comments section and is rumoured to police it ferociously, demanding the instant banning of anyone who critiques him.

But however much he silences his critics BTL, the question still remains – what is Harding doing here? And, even if we accept he’s too lost in his narcissistic persecution complex to understand concepts of right and wrong or truth and fiction, what is the Guardian’s excuse? The Mayne family, like so many others, are looking for answers and solutions, not lies and propaganda. They want to know who killed their son. Who really, actually killed their son. because it’s the only thing they can do for him any more; the only act of caring and protection left available to them. And for that they need and deserve more than being used as the unwitting attack dogs for undeclared and lunatic agendas. They deserve the respect of honesty and full and truthful disclosure.

If they’d been given that would they still be blaming Vladimir Putin? Or would their anger be directed against other – possibly more deserving – targets, such as the media that has lied and continues to lie in the service of obscuring truth and promoting war?

I can’t tell and wouldn’t presume to dictate. But if one of my children had died so abominably I hope I would find someone willing to help me find the culprits rather than use me as a poster child for their own personal hate campaign.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment