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Ex-NSA Official: Nobody Knows What’s Going On at US Intelligence Agencies

Sputnik – October 26, 2017

When it comes to the US intelligence community’s ability to collect, store and analyze data on any person at any time, there’s virtually nothing that can stop them. Keeping track of who’s doing what within that community, however, is a different animal.

Congressional intelligence committees, FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts, “and even the administration have no real control of what happens inside these intelligence agencies. They don’t have any way of verifying what they’re doing, that’s the real problem — even the managers of those agencies don’t necessarily know what’s going on in their agency,” former NSA officer Bill Binney told Loud & Clear on Radio Sputnik Thursday.

​Regarding the government’s use of contractors in facilitating their operations, former Anonymous activist Barrett Brown told By Any Means Necessary in March, “there’s so much going on with these contracting firms, so much compartmentalization, that no single person knows exactly what’s possible these days.”

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to approve Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 12-3. The bill “reauthorizes our nation’s most valuable intelligence collection authorities and ensure that the men and women of the intelligence community and our law enforcement agencies have the tools and authorities they need to keep us safe,” Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said in an October 24 news release.

Reauthorizing the act is just theater anyway, since the intelligence agencies have the capabilities to skirt around the law anyway, Binney says. “You can write any number of bills you want: [the intelligence] agencies can violate them,” because Congress doesn’t really know what is going on at the agencies, the expert said.

“They have no idea what’s going on, and what’s going under, the mass collection of data on US citizens under Executive Order 12333,” Binney explained. First signed by US President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981, the order requires federal agencies to comply with requests for information from the Central Intelligence Agency. One statute of the order specifically allows information collection “that may violate federal, state, local or foreign laws.” In other words, the order gives the intelligence community a free pass to break the law, regardless of who made the law.

Binney refers to the intelligence apparatus as ‘the modern-day pretorian guard,’ which exerted disproportionate control over who would be selected for leadership positions during the Roman Empire and very often operated outside the legal bounds set by the Roman Senate.

This week, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the USA Rights Act, praised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as “the most comprehensive reform so far of Section 702.” The measure would make it more difficult for the government to gather data from private-sector companies.

Binney was skeptical such a measure could move the needle on mass domestic espionage. “For example, right now, and for the past 16 years,” the US intelligence community has been “violating the constitutional rights of US citizens. Well, if they can do that, and just simply, get the law to conform with to that — that’s what they’ve been doing.”
“The problem with that is it’s unconstitutional,” he said.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Russia-gate Breeds ‘Establishment McCarthyism’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 26, 2017

In the past, America has witnessed “McCarthyism” from the Right and even complaints from the Right about “McCarthyism of the Left.” But what we are witnessing now amid the Russia-gate frenzy is what might be called “Establishment McCarthyism,” traditional media/political powers demonizing and silencing dissent that questions mainstream narratives.

Sen. Joe McCarthy with lawyer Roy Cohn (right)

This extraordinary assault on civil liberties is cloaked in fright-filled stories about “Russian propaganda” and wildly exaggerated tales of the Kremlin’s “hordes of Twitter bots,” but its underlying goal is to enforce Washington’s “groupthinks” by creating a permanent system that shuts down or marginalizes dissident opinions and labels contrary information – no matter how reasonable and well-researched – as “disputed” or “rated false” by mainstream “fact-checking” organizations like PolitiFact.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the paragons of this new structure – such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and, indeed, PolitiFact – have a checkered record of getting facts straight.

For instance, PolitiFact still rates as “true” Hillary Clinton’s false claim that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” agreed that Russia was behind the release of Democratic emails last year. Even the Times and The Associated Press belatedly ran corrections after President Obama’s intelligence chiefs admitted that the assessment came from what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies: CIA, FBI and NSA.

And, the larger truth was that these “hand-picked” analysts were sequestered away from other analysts even from their own agencies and produced “stove-piped intelligence,” i.e., analysis that escapes the back-and-forth that should occur inside the intelligence community.

Even then, what these analysts published last Jan. 6 was an “assessment,” which they specifically warned was “not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” In other words, they didn’t have any conclusive proof of Russian “hacking.”

Yet, the Times and other leading newspapers routinely treat these findings as flat fact or the unassailable “consensus” of the “intelligence community.” Contrary information, including WikiLeaks’ denials of a Russian role in supplying the emails, and contrary judgments from former senior U.S. intelligence officials are ignored.

The Jan. 6 report also tacked on a seven-page addendum smearing the Russian television network, RT, for such offenses as sponsoring a 2012 debate among U.S. third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates. RT also was slammed for reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and the environmental dangers from “fracking.”

How the idea of giving Americans access to divergent political opinions and information about valid issues such as income inequality and environmental dangers constitutes threats to American “democracy” is hard to comprehend.

However, rather than address the Jan. 6 report’s admitted uncertainties about Russian “hacking” and the troubling implications of its attacks on RT, the Times and other U.S. mainstream publications treat the report as some kind of holy scripture that can’t be questioned or challenged.

Silencing RT

For instance, on Tuesday, the Times published a front-page story entitled “YouTube Gave Russians Outlet Portal Into U.S.” that essentially cried out for the purging of RT from YouTube. The article began by holding YouTube’s vice president Robert Kynci up to ridicule and opprobrium for his praising “RT for bonding with viewers by providing ‘authentic’ content instead of ‘agendas or propaganda.’”

The article by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nicholas Confessore swallowed whole the Jan. 6 report’s conclusion that RT is “the Kremlin’s ‘principal international propaganda outlet’ and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world.” In other words, the Times portrayed Kynci as essentially a “useful idiot.”

Yet, the article doesn’t actually dissect any RT article that could be labeled false or propagandistic. It simply alludes generally to news items that contained information critical of Hillary Clinton as if any negative reporting on the Democratic presidential contender – no matter how accurate or how similar to stories appearing in the U.S. press – was somehow proof of “information warfare.”

As Daniel Lazare wrote at on Wednesday, “The web version [of the Times article] links to an RT interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ran shortly before the 2016 election. The topic is a September 2014 email obtained by Wikileaks in which Clinton acknowledges that ‘the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia … are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.’”

In other words, the Times cited a documented and newsworthy RT story as its evidence that RT was a propaganda shop threatening American democracy and deserving ostracism if not removal from YouTube.

A Dangerous Pattern

Not to say that I share every news judgment of RT – or for that matter The New York Times – but there is a grave issue of press freedom when the Times essentially calls for the shutting down of access to a news organization that may highlight or report on stories that the Times and other mainstream outlets downplay or ignore.

And this was not a stand-alone story. Previously, the Times has run favorable articles about plans to deploy aggressive algorithms to hunt down and then remove or marginalize information that the Times and other mainstream outlets deem false.

Nor is it just the Times. Last Thanksgiving, The Washington Post ran a fawning front-page article about an anonymous group PropOrNot that had created a blacklist of 200 Internet sites, including and other independent news sources, that were deemed guilty of dispensing “Russian propaganda,” which basically amounted to our showing any skepticism toward the State Department’s narratives on the crises in Syria or Ukraine.

So, if any media outlet dares to question the U.S. government’s version of events – once that storyline has been embraced by the big media – the dissidents risk being awarded the media equivalent of a yellow star and having their readership dramatically reduced by getting downgraded on search engines and punished on social media.

Meanwhile, Congress has authorized $160 million to combat alleged Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” a gilded invitation for “scholars” and “experts” to gear up “studies” that will continue to prove what is supposed to be proved – “Russia bad” – with credulous mainstream reporters eagerly gobbling up the latest “evidence” of Russian perfidy.

There is also a more coercive element to what’s going on. RT is facing demands from the Justice Department that it register as a “foreign agent” or face prosecution. Clearly, the point is to chill the journalism done by RT’s American reporters, hosts and staff who now fear being stigmatized as something akin to traitors.

You might wonder: where are the defenders of press freedom and civil liberties? Doesn’t anyone in the mainstream media or national politics recognize the danger to a democracy coming from enforced groupthinks? Is American democracy so fragile that letting Americans hear “another side of the story” must be prevented?

A Dangerous ‘Cure’

I agree that there is a limited problem with jerks who knowingly make up fake stories or who disseminate crazy conspiracy theories – and no one finds such behavior more offensive than I do. But does no one recall the lies about Iraq’s WMD and other U.S. government falsehoods and deceptions over the years?

Often, it is the few dissenters who alert the American people to the truth, even as the Times, Post, CNN and other big outlets are serving as the real propaganda agents, accepting what the “important people” say and showing little or no professional skepticism.

And, given the risk of thermo-nuclear war with Russia, why aren’t liberals and progressives demanding at least a critical examination of what’s coming from the U.S. intelligence agencies and the mainstream press?

The answer seems to be that many liberals and progressives are so blinded by their fury over Donald Trump’s election that they don’t care what lines are crossed to destroy or neutralize him. Plus, for some liberal entities, there’s lots of money to be made.

For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union has made its “resistance” to the Trump administration an important part of its fundraising. So, the ACLU is doing nothing to defend the rights of news organizations and journalists under attack.

When I asked ACLU about the Justice Department’s move against RT and other encroachments on press freedom, I was told by ACLU spokesman Thomas Dresslar: “Thanks for reaching out to us. Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that we do not have anyone able to speak to you about this.”

Meanwhile, the Times and other traditional “defenders of a free press” are now part of the attack machine against a free press. While much of this attitude comes from the big media’s high-profile leadership of the anti-Trump Resistance and anger at any resistors to the Resistance, mainstream news outlets have chafed for years over the Internet undermining their privileged role as the gatekeepers of what Americans get to see and hear.

For a long time, the big media has wanted an excuse to rein in the Internet and break the small news outlets that have challenged the power – and the profitability – of the Times, Post, CNN, etc. Russia-gate and Trump have become the cover for that restoration of mainstream authority.

So, as we have moved into this dangerous New Cold War, we are living in what could be called “Establishment McCarthyism,” a hysterical but methodical strategy for silencing dissent and making sure that future mainstream groupthinks don’t get challenged.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

UN Report: ‘Plausible External Attack Caused Dag Hammarskjold’s Plane to Crash’

Sputnik – October 26, 2017

New evidence has been unearthed of potential Western intelligence agency involvement in the 1961 plane crash death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold.

A new United Nations-mandated report has found it “plausible” an external attack or threat led to the notorious fatal plane crash that killed former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in September 1961.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tasked Tanzanian chief justice Mohamed Chande Othman to investigate the overnight crash into a forest on the approach to the Ndola airfield, in what was then northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia.

​Othman’s 63-page report is rife with new evidence on the crash of the DC-6 aircraft which killed 16, including the famed Swedish diplomat. It was presented to the UN October 25.

Hammarskjold was the UN’s second Secretary General, appointed in 1953. His plane crashed en-route to a summit, at which he was going to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire in mining-rich Katanga province, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The incident remains a painful open wound in the history of the UN, and one of the 20th century’s most enduring mysteries.

‘Direct Attack’

Othman’s conclusion suggests the plane was deliberately brought down, either by “direct attack” or a distraction that diverted pilots’ attention “for a matter of seconds at the critical point at which they were on their descent.” Several witnesses attested to seeing a second aircraft in the air at the time.

“Based on the totality of the information we have at hand, it appears plausible external attack or threat may have been a cause of the crash. [There is a] significant amount of evidence from eyewitnesses that they observed more than one aircraft in the air, that the other aircraft may have been a jet, that SE-BDY was on fire before it crashed, and/or that SE-BDY was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by another aircraft,” Othman wrote.

​Othman had access to a wide range of information for his report. New evidence suggested Katangan rebels who opposed Congo’s independence from Belgium had more air power than previously thought. Instead of a single French Fouga aircraft, rebels may have had three, and other planes, including one from West Germany, available for their use at a number of airfields in the region.

The Katangese separatists were supported by powerful Western political and mining interests, not eager to see Mr. Hammarskjold’s diplomacy succeed — and documents received by Othman indicate both the UK and US had agents in and around the Congo at the time of the crash.

At the time, Congo had only recently secured a troubled independence from Belgium, while the British and Portuguese continued to maintain colonial holdings around the area. The secession of Katanga brutally exposed the covert competition between rival powers and commercial interests for influence over Africa’s future — and for supporters of Katanga’s secession, Hammarskjold was a hate figure.

Othman’s report noted that while UN troops were engaged in a three-way battle against European soldiers of fortune and rebellious forces, Western intelligence agents (in particular British and American) secretly chronicled and even perhaps steered events on the ground. US aircraft equipped with high-powered radio transmitters flew frequent clandestine intelligence missions in the area, routinely intercepting UN communications.

There were major concerns among the highest echelons of the UN about a potential attack on the plane even before takeoff, leading pilots to fly an indirect route, circumventing Congolese territory and observing near-total radio silence while in the air.

Theories and Accusations

Theories over the decades have ranged from the crash being caused by an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organization carrying out a bomb plot — referred to as “Operation Celeste” — or the plane being shot down by a Belgian pilot. The Othman panel dismissed the theory a bomb brought down the plane, although could not conclude if sabotage was a cause of the crash. His team lacked access to original documents from South Africa detailing Operation Celeste.

Speculation and theorizing has been further driven by the refusal of several Western governments and intelligence agencies (in particular the UK, US and and Belgium, the former colonial power in the Congo) to disclose information relating to the crash.

​Ndola airport did not use its equipment to record radio traffic on the night of Hammarskjold’s death, although a UK diplomat who was at the airport at the time, Sir Brian Unwin, recalled two US aircraft ran their engines on the airfield throughout the night, fueling suspicion they were monitoring radio traffic.

Moreover, Othman said there were clear indications British colonial authorities had sought to blame pilot error for the crash at the time, but he said that conclusion should now be considered “logically unsound.”

“Judging from history and the manner in which potential new information has emerged over the years. It is still likely that additional information will be located, unearthed or made available,” Othman concluded.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel finally ends $10 billion binary options scam – or does it?

By Alison Weir | If Americans Knew | October 26, 2017

Israeli lawmakers have finally passed a law they say will ban Israel’s notorious binary options industry, which has brought in $10 billion a year.

The money was made by scamming millions of people around the world. A recent Reuters article reports: “London-based lawyers said hundreds of their clients were duped out of vast sums of money by some Israeli firms. More than 100 operators are estimated to be based in Israel, a technology hub.”

The industry was officially banned in the U.S. but Israeli operators still managed to scam many Americans. An article in Finance Feeds reports: “America is still a target for these nefarious entities whose methodology stems not from the financial markets or technology sectors, but from the lowbrow depths of online gambling, lead buying and affiliate marketing in Israel.”

News stories through the years have described misery and suicides among victims. Finally, a year ago the Israeli government banned sales of binary options to Israelis, but continued to permit them to the rest of the world.

The current bill that now also outlaws sales abroad was passed when Israeli legislators became concerned that the industry was hurting Israel’s image.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports that Knesset member Rachel Azaria said in introducing the recent bill: “We worry about the BDS movement. This industry has a huge impact on how Israel is viewed throughout the world. Our government officials go to international conferences and their colleagues abroad raise their eyebrows because of this industry.”

Israel National News reports that notes on behalf of the proposed legislation warned that “Israeli binary option companies risked damaging the country’s reputation and ‘could foment anti-Semitism’.”

The Times of Israel reports that the legislation was catalyzed by the outcry “among overseas law enforcement agencies, with the FBI at the forefront, that Israel was allowing this ‘monstrous’ fraud to flourish year after year.”

For years the Israeli government did little to stop it. JTA reports that despite widespread awareness of the scam, “Only a handful of Israelis have been arrested for binary options fraud, and none have been indicted, even as international law enforcement against the industry has ramped up.”

The article reports that an Israeli police superintendent “said Israeli organized crime was being massively enriched and strengthened because of law enforcement’s failure to grasp the scope of the problem.”

The law is set to take effect in three months, but some raise questions about it, charging that it lets perpetrators off the hook without punishment, allows scammers to simply relocate, and exempts similar activities, allowing the massive profits through victimization to continue.

The Times of Israel reports: “The original text was watered down — creating loopholes through which binary options and other rogues, simply by retooling what they do, will be able to continue to prosper.”

Austin Smith, founder of a company that reclaims money for binary options victims, calls the law “total garbage” that allows perpetrators to shift into new rackets without answering for their past scams.

“It’s more a political talking point than actually something with teeth that’s going to stop more fraud from being perpetrated,” he said. “It also does nothing to help victims of fraud recover any of their money.”

JTA reports that Smith is working with attorneys around the world to track down the heads of binary options companies as they open new operations in Cyprus  and elsewhere, moving into such industries as diamond sales, cryptocurrencies and predatory business loans.

The original legislation authored by the Israel Securities Authority would have also outlawed similar gambits – companies involved in the foreign exchange market, or Forex, and CFD financial instruments. Pressure from lobbyists caused these to be removed from the bill.

Also, some actions are still permissible under the new law. Finance Magnates reports that binary options agents will be allowed “to provide research and development services (in other words – to develop the trading software) and to sell trading software as a shelf product.”

The FM article points out: “It remains to be seen how the amendment will be enforced.”

In particular, the question may be “how much flexibility the Israeli Securities Authority (ISA) will show when industry players, especially technology and platform solutions providers, seek relief or exemption from the ISA by trying to establish that their services do not amount to operating a trading platform but rather are in the permitted realm of software development.”

The Times of Israel reports: “Binary options owners and investors include former senior employees of the state, well-known public figures, relatives of former senior police officers and more. Immensely wealthy, some of the key figures make substantial charity donations — which in turn give them access to political figures all the way to the very top of the Israeli hierarchy.”

Past, present, and future problems

The Times of Israel, whose investigative journalists were instrumental in raising the alarm about binary options, reports that some elements of the back story to the current bill “raise extremely disturbing questions about the power of Israel’s criminal classes, the integrity of some of our legislators, and the quality of our law enforcement authorities.”

The article describes courageous actions by many Israelis intent on ending the scam. It also describes major failures and predicts deep problems for the future.

The article by David Horovitz, Why binary options ban is only a small victory in the war on Israeli corruption, is subtitled: “MKs finally moved this week to shut down a mega fraud. But the legislative process exposed the impotence of law enforcement… and the growing intimidatory power of Israel’s crooks.”

Following are some excerpts from Horovitz’s indepth report:

“The binary options crooks were barred from targeting Israelis in March 2016, but were being allowed to continue to steal from foreigners — and still are, in fact, because Monday’s law only goes into effect three months from now.”

“it quickly emerged that the police complaints bureaucracy is set up in such a way as to make it almost impossible for overseas victims of crime hatched in Israel to so much as report the matter.”

“when a Canadian father of four named Fred Turbide took his own life after an Israeli binary options firm stole all his money, and a clear paper trail established exactly who had defrauded him, the police did not take any action against the individuals and company involved, which continued to operate.”

“The fraudulent salespeople routinely conceal where they are located, misrepresent what they are selling and use false identities. (The FBI affidavit against Elbaz goes into considerable detail to explain the fraud, in all its miserable manifestations.)”

“The crooks are still out there. Some binary options firms have closed down. Others have relocated overseas, including to Cyprus and Ukraine. Some of the prime movers and shakers have already adjusted their focus to other fraudulent fields — in the fields of diamond sales, cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings and predatory business loans.

“Top scammers are still enjoying the vast overseas bank accounts, the yachts, luxury cars, exotic holidays and other profits of their ill-gotten gains.”

“The ranks of binary options owners and investors include former senior employees of the state, well-known public figures, relatives of former senior police officers and more. Immensely wealthy, some of the key figures make substantial charity donations — which in turn give them access to political figures all the way to the very top of the Israeli hierarchy.

“They also donate to Jewish religious causes, for example Tel Aviv’s Great Synagogue, again with consequent friends in high places.”

“Some of those thousands of Israelis who have been drawn into lives of crime in the industry — cynical swindlers posing as financial experts and advisers, gloating at the naivety of their victims — are extremely cunning. And many of the higher-ups — including the computer coders, the lawyers, the affiliate marketers, and the SEO experts who manipulate Google and social media to ensure the prominence of seductive content hyping the ostensible potential for profit — are despicably smart. They will not go down without a fight. Israeli law enforcement seems largely disinclined even to try to tackle them, much less capable of doing so.”

“Monday night’s passage of the law banning binary options was but a small winning battle in what, to this extremely worried Israeli, looks for now like a losing war, a war Israel is barely bothering to fight, against a toxic cocktail of corruption.”

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel. Her upcoming book talks are listed here

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | 1 Comment

My Name is Rachel Corrie

23-year-old Rachel Corrie who was crushed to death by Israeli bulldozers in Gaza in 2003 [NawalAlhawsawi/Twitter]
By Nasim Ahmed | MEMO | October 26, 2017

Fourteen years have passed since 23-year-old Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli bulldozers in Gaza. The American activists, along with other members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), were taking part in nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition when the activist from Washington was killed.

Since her untimely death on the Rafah border crossing in 2003, Corrie’s free-spirited attitude to life has been the inspiration for international solidarity movements, non-violent resistance as well as plays and books celebrating her humanity and bravery.

My Name is Rachel Corrie, being showed at the Young Vic in London, is based on the emails and diary entries of the pro-Palestinian activist, which first premiered at London’s Royal Court in 2005. The play was originally put together by the late Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, now the editor of the Guardian.

Unsurprisingly the plays reproduction has come under strong criticism from Pro-Israeli groups. Fury at the revival of the play has stirred all kinds of controversy such that supporters of Israel in the UK are piling pressure on the Young Vic for staging the play. The Vic’s artistic director David Lan, who is Jewish, felt compelled to come to the theatre’s defence saying: “Gaza is a wound to the planet from which so many people are suffering.”

Pro-Israeli organisations have even threatened to leverage the £1.7 million pubic grant given to the Young Vic to ensure that it takes a more “balanced” position when it comes to Israel. Lan however has insisted that artistic expressions are useful to promote dialogue saying: “We welcome and hope to encourage as wide a discussion of this terrible situation as possible and anything that keeps Gaza at the front of our consciousness is to be valued.”

Aside from the nuisance of having Pro-Israeli activists shoving propaganda leaflets smearing the memory of Corrie towards you at the entrance of the theatre, the hour and half long immersion into Corrie’s mind is a memorable experience.

The play brilliantly darts through the diaries of Corrie from her early teens through to the period of her untimely death. Directed by an award winning director, Josh Roche, and wonderfully performed by British actor Erin Doherty, viewers are exposed to a visceral representation of the brutality of Israeli occupation seen through the eyes of an activist searching for her place in life.

Doherty’s astonishingly skilful performance of Corrie brings to life defining moments in the campaigner’s personal journey as she grapples with her own sense of privilege in contrasted with the indignity and poverty she saw in Gaza. If nothing else, the play powerfully captures the inner tensions of Corrie who felt a deep sense of responsibility over her own country’s unquestioned support for Israel.

The play is emotionally rousing given the very nature of diary entries, which are intended by its author to be an honest representation of ones thoughts and feelings unpolluted by polemics. Corrie appeared deeply troubled by the constant dehumanisation of Muslims and Palestinians; her conversations with her father, which are including in the the play, shed light on America’s own troubling assumptions about the world in the post 9/11 world.

The added punch to the play and the performance of Doherty is made all the more incredible by the setting; a background made up from the barest material, empty colourless plywood panels on the floor and the wall. The centrepiece is a tall wooden stand that appears to stand as a representation of Israel’s Separation Wall. It required an exceptional actor playing an exceptional person to make the experience so emotionally jarring.

Rachel Corrie’s legacy will continue to inspire thousands in campaigns against political oppression and this play, like its predecessor, has certainly reached the level of being “the irrepressible political voice” of the young campaigner from Olympia.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

US attempt to fuel Iraq-Iran rift backfires

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 26, 2017

The US project to create a rift between Iraq and Iran backfired just a couple of days of its launch from Riyadh on October 22 by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Washington effectively sought out Saudi Arabia to project itself as counterweight to Iran in the Iraqi theatre, predicated on the presumption that Riyadh’s offer to extend funding to ‘rebuild’ post-ISIS Iraq will be found irresistible by Baghdad. Washington fancied that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is looking for ways to push back at Tehran, as his dependency on Iran’s military support is diminishing with the defeat of ISIS.

Tillerson travelled to Riyadh over the weekend to be present as a special guest at the first inaugural meeting of the so-called Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Council. Things seemed to go well and Tillerson’s remarks to the media exuded optimism. At a press conference in Riyadh, he said that the Saudi largesse will “strengthen Iraq as an independent and whole country… (and) this will be in some ways counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside of Iraq.” Tillerson then came to the point:

  • Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control of areas that had been overtaken by ISIS and Daesh that have now been liberated, allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors. And I think this agreement that has been put in place between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iraq is a crucial element to assisting the Iraqi people to do that. (Transcript)

The reference was to the Shi’ite militia groups funded, trained and deployed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, which literally bore the brunt of the fight against the ISIS in the recent years. Washington is particularly incensed over the lead role by the Shi’ite paramilitary groups in seizing Kirkuk recently from the Kurdish Peshmerga who are US allies. (See my blog Kirkuk bells also toll for US strategy in Syria.)

Evidently, Tillerson crossed the red line. The point is, these Shi’ite groups, collectively known as Popular Mobilisation Forces and several tens of thousands strong, are probably going to be designated as part of the Iraqi armed forces. Abadi’s office in Baghdad came out in no time with a stinging rebuke – “No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters” – and called the Shi’ite paramilitary groups “patriots.” The next day, when Tillerson showed up in Baghdad for a meeting with Abadi, the latter was fairly explicit. Abadi said the Popular Mobilisation Forces form “part of the Iraqi institutions” and they will be the “hope of country and the region.” (Reuters )

Later, in an interview with the American press, Abadi retorted: “We would like to work with you (US)… But please don’t bring your trouble inside Iraq. You can sort it anywhere else.” Abadi then began suggesting a US troop withdrawal from Iraq. He said that US air power won’t be needed anymore and Iraq’s requirements will be henceforth on intelligence sharing and help to train Iraqi forces. The way things are shaping up between Washington and Tehran, continued US military presence in Iraq may become problematic in a near future.

Meanwhile, having gambled on the independence referendum only to lose oil-rich Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani is suing for ceasefire and talks with Baghdad. The US is urging Abadi to respond to Barzani’s overture and engage with him in discussions. The Trump administration has secured strong Congressional support for its demands on Abadi. Signaling the seriousness of the demands, On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry issued the following statement to pressure Baghdad:

  • Ongoing clashes between forces aligned with the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government are undermining hard-fought gains in the fight against ISIS, and threatening to plunge Iraq into a new wave of sectarian violence. The bloodshed must stop immediately. We support a united Iraq under the federal government in Baghdad, and we support the Kurdistan Regional Government.
  • To that end, we welcome today’s reports that the Kurds are offering to suspend results of their recent referendum in return for a ceasefire and negotiations with the central government. Baghdad should accept this offer and enter into meaningful discussions that address long-term Kurdish concerns about autonomy, share of the national budget, and oil revenues. Meanwhile, it is critical that the Iraqi government heed Secretary Tillerson’s concern about the role and activities of Iranian-backed Shia militias. We are very concerned about Iranian involvement in recent operations. These forces have been responsible for horrible abuses, including the deaths of Americans. They have no place in a peaceful, united, and stable Iraq.

But Abadi is parrying. He visited Ankara on Wednesday to consult President Recep Erdogan. (Rudaw ) The latest reports suggest that the Iraqi forces with the support of the Shi’ite forces might go for the jugular veins of the Iraqi Kurds. Baghdad will want to drive home the advantage that the Kurds are not cohesive and are split 3-ways with the PUK (which was led by late Talabani) inclined to cooperate with Baghdad and Tehran, thereby isolating Barzani who is reduced now increasingly as a US-Israeli proxy. (Turkey has also become hostile toward Barzani following his push for the Kurdish independence referndum.)  The Russian news agency Sputnik reported today as ‘breaking news’ that  Iraqi troops and Shi’ite militias had been pulling heavy artillery and tanks close to Peshmerga positions near Zummar and shelling their positions. (Sputnik ) If a flare-up ensues in coming days, the US will be in a tight spot, apart from the breakdown of ties between Washington and Baghdad.

The US’ problem, quintessentially, is that its intentions are suspect in all three key regional capitals confronting the Kurdish question – Ankara, Baghdad, Tehran. At a recent meeting with US ambassador Douglas Sliman, Iraqi Vice-President Nouri al-Maliki said with brutal frankness, “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in northern Iraq.”

Last week’s events underscore three things. One, the US does not intend to end its military presence in Iraq (and Syria), although the pretext of the war against the ISIS is no longer there. Two, US is planning to turn Iraq into a major theatre of confrontation with Iran.

A US control of Iraq puts it in a position to pile pressure on Iran from different directions — interfering with Iranian supply routes to Syria and Lebanon; playing itself back to regain a role in the Syrian settlement; having a say in Iraq’s rising oil production and staging covert cross-border operations to destabilize the Iranian regime. Indeed, with the open-ended US military presence already in place in Afghanistan, the intention is to squash with a similar western neighbor under American tutelage.

Three, fundamentally, it becomes all too obvious that the US-Saudi alliance in regional politics is very much alive and kicking, and any reports to the contrary are greatly exaggerated. The US’ return to the centre stage in Iraq to challenge Iran’s regional influence will give much verve to the US alliance with Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, the Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported last week that the Pentagon plans to boost deployments to the Middle East specifically to counter Iran. The report cited General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command, as saying, “The United States wants to help the Arab countries deal with Iranian threats. The Pentagon is working to achieve that desire and ensure its effective implementation. That includes the establishment of US military battalions sent as missions to the region and be designed specifically to provide advice and assistance.”

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Access to Alternative Sources ‘Made Mainstream Media Lose Their Credibility’

Sputnik – October 26, 2017

The results of a poll commissioned by Sputnik and conducted by Ifop in the US have revealed that the majority of Americans believe that their mainstream media unfairly cover international and domestic events. Foreign journalists have explained why the MSM have lost the trust of their audience.

“The results of the survey clearly demonstrate that the US mass media enjoy less and less credibility among Americans. People do understand that newspapers and broadcasters in their country have become a tool in the hands of big businesses and politicians. There is another issue, however, that with all the understanding, people are not immune to the influence of these media sources,” Professor Julián Jiménez, Spanish blogger and mass media analyst surmised to Spanish website Sputnik Mundo.

He referred to the recent poll commissioned by Sputnik and conducted by Ifop, the renowned French pollster, which revealed that as many as 59 percent of Americans think that MSM media coverage of international and domestic affairs is biased, untrustworthy and is heavily influenced by politicians and big business.

According to the expert, the Spanish also share this distrust of the national media, neither believing in the objectivity and independence of their domestic media. At the same time, the general public can be heard repeating word-for-word the lies they hear about Russia, Venezuela or Catalonia from the very same media sources they have admitted they don’t trust.

Professor Jiménez suggested that the level of distrust towards the mass media in the EU is even higher than that in the US, however, very few Europeans are eager to spend their time on searching for alternative information or to dig for the truth.

“I think there is a direct link between the decline in trust towards the national media in the US and the EU and the campaign which has been launched against RT and Sputnik. These two media sources provide far more objective and comprehensive coverage of national and international events, unlike the one-sided and predictable reporting of the mainstream media,” he told Sputnik.

That is why the authorities and mainstream media use various absurd pretexts to hinder the access of these two outlets to the western audience, the expert explained. It has reached the point where El Pais, the most circulated daily newspaper in Spain, has accused RT and Sputnik of instigating the Catalan crisis in its attempt to undermine their reputation. This is a particularly dangerous line to take because while people are being put on the wrong scent, the real problems that initially ignited this conflict will only worsen. And these are purely internal problems and not engineered from abroad, he concluded.

Fernando Martínez, a journalist from the Dominican Republic, who worked for a long time in the US, has offered his opinion on the results of the survey, suggesting that the mainstream media, including in the US, have lost their competitiveness now that many diverse sources of information around the world are available for free.

According to the reporter, before the spread and the development of the Internet, the US was able to easily dominate the world’s media agenda by using simple tricks – half-truths or half-lies.

“This reminds me of The Matrix movie, in a sense that the fictional reality, which had been built by the US media for decades, is falling to pieces before our very eyes. To a large extent, it is due to media sources such as RT and Sputnik. That is why western politicians are accusing Russia of virtual information terrorism. They are so alarmed that these outlets, whose budgets pale in comparison with the western international media, so easily win the audience. However their secret is very simple: they opt to tell truth,” Martínez opined.

Commenting on the recent reports that both media sources have come under intense scrutiny of authorities in the US, the journalist ruled out that they could be banned either in the EU or overseas. Russia has made it clear that it would respond symmetrically to such a decision and neither Washington nor Brussels would want to lose the Russian audience. That is why they limit themselves to threats without resorting to any radical moves, he concluded.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

UN blacklists 130 Israeli firms & 60 multinationals for working in occupied Palestinian territories

RT | October 26, 2017

The United Nations (UN) has included some of the biggest Israeli and international firms operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights in a blacklist for those violating “international law and UN resolutions.”

According to Israeli Ynet News which has gained access to part of the list, 130 Israeli companies and 60 international corporations received warning letters from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein about their impending inclusion on the blacklist.

The list, which reportedly will be published in late December includes Israel Aerospace Industries, telecom giants, international tech firms, banks, and even cafes.

Israel Aerospace Industries, Hewlett-Packard, the Israeli branches of Motorola and HP, the Dead Sea cosmetics firm Ahava, the Cellcom and Partner telecommunications companies are among those listed. Israel’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, are also said to be on the list.

Israeli Channel 2 News has reported that among the American firms that received letters were Coca-Cola, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Caterpillar.

The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned the blacklist as “the latest in this long line of shameful actions” taken by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). In June Haley warned the US could withdraw from the 47-member body.

“It may cause large investment firms or pension funds carrying stocks of various Israeli companies to divest in them because they, in turn, operate in the settlements,” an unnamed senior Israeli official told Ynet, adding “it may lead to a snowball effect that will greatly harm the Israeli economy eventually.”

The companies say the list’s creation was politically motivated and their inclusion may cause them financial harm and tarnish their brand. They are reportedly looking into filing lawsuits against the Commissioner and the UNHRC.

In September, the UN Commissioner warned over 150 companies that their activities in the “occupied Palestinian territories” may see them added to a blacklist of companies as “they operate in opposition to international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.”

The UN Human Rights Commission voted in March for the resolution being pushed by the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations, according to which the commission would formulate a database of Israeli and international firms directly or indirectly doing business in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The decision passed despite pressure and criticism from the US.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment

Balfour Merrymaking a Potential PR Disaster for the British Government

By Stuart Littlewood | Dissident Voice | October 25, 2017

The extraordinary programme of centenary celebrations in the UK to honour Lord Balfour and his lunatic Declaration — and the British Government’s continuing part in it — is an affront to citizens here and to countless millions abroad. And many a sharp pin is waiting to burst the pretty Balfour balloon being desperately inflated by Israel-firsters at Westminster.

Balfour’s 1917 pledge and its consequences, played out over the last 70 years, ride roughshod over Christian values and humanitarian law. Rothschild replied to Balfour’s letter saying that “the British Government has opened up, by their message, a prospect of safety and comfort to large masses of people who are in need of it.” Well, it also opened up the prospect — and the reality — of a lifetime of abject misery for millions of Palestinians who had no need of it and certainly didn’t deserve it. It also helped to plant in the most sacred part of the Middle East an evil regime that shows contempt for human rights and international law and is bent on creating instability all around and confiscating every acre of land and every natural resource to aid its expansion.

The daft thing is, Balfour didn’t even write the Declaration. He was simply the upper-class twit who signed it and did so without even bothering to consult the people whose homeland he intended giving away. The carefully worded letter to Rothschild (the so-called Declaration) was the work of Leopold Amery, political secretary to the War Cabinet at the time, who cleverly kept hidden his Jewish ancestry throughout his quite impressive career. He was also largely responsible for forming the Jewish Legion battalions which were the forerunners of the hated Israeli Defence Force, which Israeli Miko Peled describes as “one of the best trained and best equipped and best fed terrorist organisations in the world”.

Amery was an eager Zionist and had a supervisory role in the British mandate government in Palestine during the 1920s, actively preparing it for eventual Jewish takeover. He operated within a government the upper echelons of which were stuffed with Zionist sympathisers such as Churchill and Lloyd George.

In response to the avalanche of pro-Balfour celebratory tosh the Palestine Mission to the UK commissioned a ‘Make It Right’ campaign featuring contrasting images of Palestinian life before and after 1948, when Israel declared statehood on land it had overrun and ethnically cleansed. The campaign message, of course, objects to the Balfour declaration which promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Posters were supposed to appear on buses and in Underground rail stations but London’s transport authority, Transport for London (TfL), has banned the advertisements on the grounds that they “did not comply fully with our guidelines”. It seems TfL don’t like “images or messages which relate to matters of public controversy or sensitivity” or causes that are “party political”.

Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian accuses TfL of censorship saying:

Palestinian history is a censored history. There has been a 100-year-long cover-up of the British government’s broken promise, in the Balfour declaration, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians when it gave away their country to another people. TfL’s decision is not surprising as it is, at best, susceptible to or, at worst, complicit with, all the institutional forces and active lobby groups which continuously work to silence the Palestinian narrative. There may be free speech in Britain on every issue under the sun but not on Palestine.

Prime Minister Theresa May has invited her Israeli counterpart ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu to the London celebrations. It is unthinkable in Government circles for an honoured guest to be confronted with a London plastered with such inconvenient messages. Nevertheless, they’ll appear on 52 London black cabs, which aren’t under TfL’s control, so our PM’s loathsome visitor may not entirely escape embarrassment, assuming he’s capable of feeling it.

Conflating justice and tolerance with anti-Semitism

Speaking of declarations I’m reminded of a far more sensible one by Shimon Tzabar, who had been a member of Jewish terrorist organisations in Palestine during the British Mandate including the Stern Gang, Irgun and Haganah. After 1948 and the establishment of the Israeli state he fought in its 1948-50, 1956, and 1967 wars but spoke out against the annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He even began calling  himself a “Hebrew-speaking Palestinian”. Tzabar and others eventually felt moved to publish the following declaration:

Occupation entails foreign rule. Foreign rule entails resistance. Resistance entails repression. Repression entails terror and counter-terror. The victims of terror are mostly innocent people. Holding on to the occupied territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims. Let us get out of the occupied territories immediately.

Wouldn’t Mrs May prefer to celebrate Tzabar’s Declaration? He moved to England where he famously published the MUCH BETTER THAN THE OFFICIAL MICHELIN Guide to Israeli prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps and Torture Chambers. The best and safest way to begin a tour of these horrible establishments, it said, was to look like a Palestinian Arab and get yourself arrested .” Once you look like a Palestinian you have a good chance of being arrested. Your chance is actually so good, that you don’t have to do anything in particular.”

That other Israeli straight-talker Miko Peled, mentioned above, put the cat among the pigeons at the Labour Party conference last month when he told activists that Israel is “terrified” of Jeremy Corbyn becoming British prime minister and will do everything they can to stop him. “They are going to pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn from being prime minister. It’s up to Labour, it’s up to you [to ensure] that they don’t have the ability to do that…. Jeremy Corbyn is an opportunity for Britain that, if it gets lost, won’t come back for a very long time.

“The reason anti-Semitism is used is because they [the Israelis] have no argument, there is nothing to say,” said Peled. “How can a call for justice and tolerance be conflated with anti-Semitism? I don’t know if they realise this but they are pitting Judaism against everything good and just.”

Peled is an Israeli Jew, the son of an Israeli general, and a former soldier in the Israeli army. You couldn’t find a more authentic insider source. Here’s a flavour of his message:

The name of the game: erasing Palestine, getting rid of the people and de-Arabizing the country…

By 1993 the Israelis had achieved their mission to make the conquest of the West Bank irreversible. By 1993 the Israeli government knew for certain that a Palestinian state could not be established in the West Bank – the settlements were there, $ billions were invested, the entire Jordan River valley was settled… there was no place any more for a Palestinian state to be established. That is when Israel said, OK, we’ll begin negotiations…

When people talk about the possibility of Israel somehow giving up the West Bank for a Palestinian state, if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the objective of Zionism and the Zionist state.

Meanwhile Netanyahu has just announced a temporary easing of the fishing limits imposed on Gaza’s fishermen. For two months, in the southern half of Gaza, they will be able to sail out 9 miles after which the limit reverts back to 6. Sounds generous? No, it’s ridiculously cruel. And restrictions remain even tighter in the northern half. Under the Oslo Agreements (1993) Israel is supposed to allow the Palestinians to fish up to 12 miles out, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea but, as with so many other agreements, the Zionist regime has never honoured its obligation. Furthermore Israel’s 10-year blockade on Gaza has made it impossible for many fishermen to buy parts to maintain their vessels, so the once flourishing fishing industry has been crippled.

And Netanyahu recently locked up the Palestinians for 11 days while Israelis enjoyed festive holidays. Marilyn Garson, writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, reported:

Netanyahu seals the gates of the West Bank and Gaza for eleven days, to enjoy Sukkot. How flagrant, to confine millions of people in the name of a holiday that celebrates the flimsy, temporary nature of our walls. If Jews were herded behind concrete walls and locked away for eleven days, so that someone else might enjoy a Jew-free holiday, would we shrug that off?

Haaretz is a relatively honest source and to print such a thing in Israel is quite daring.

On the same subject the Jewish Chronicle had this to say: “Border closures over the High Holidays and other Jewish festivals are routine, but are usually much shorter. The original decision stoked complaints within the Israeli security establishment that it was principally “grandstanding” by ministers eager to burnish their right-wing credentials.” The JC went on the explain that the 11-day closure had been demanded by Israeli police and the Internal Security minister, and was initially opposed by the Israeli military and senior Defence Ministry officials who said that it would be an unnecessary punishment to tens of thousands of law-abiding Palestinian workers.

However, both Israeli papers omitted to say that, thanks to Balfour’s legacy, there has been no freedom of movement for Palestinians since the closure of Gaza and the West Bank by Israel 26 years ago. Closure is the normal state of affairs and not to be confused with foolish ideas that crossings are usually open.

Contradictory Promises

The Balfour Project, which promotes justice, security and peace for both Jews and Arabs, has made available a wealth of information. One of its publications sums up the problem very neatly:

The Declaration pledges Britain’s support for a ‘national home’ in Palestine for the Jewish people on the understanding that the rights of ‘existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’ would not be prejudiced. The failure to uphold this second clause, for which Britain bears much responsibility, has caused conflict between Palestinians and Israelis ever since.

This was just one of Britain’s contradictory promises during the First World War. After the war we secured a mandate from the League of Nations which included a ‘sacred trust’ to prepare the people of Palestine for independence. But in the end Britain walked away.

Yes, in 1948 we abandoned the mess we had created. As the last British soldiers marched away Jewish leaders declared statehood without borders, pushing far beyond the boundaries set out in the UN Partition Plan the year before, their terror militia putting to flight hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, massacring many more and stealing their homes and farms.

What Britain caused to happen in the Holy Land was contrary to all decency and justice. History will not judge kindly the British Government’s decision to celebrating Balfour “with pride” while refusing to apologise and make amends. There’s a fair chance the whole sorry spectacle will backfire on Theresa May and teach her unpleasant associates a sharp lesson.

A colleague wrote only yesterday to one of our government ministers and what she said is worth repeating here:

Ministers, from the Prime Minister down, should reflect with humility that but for that disastrous decision by their predecessors 100 years ago, the Holy Land might still be a land of peace where all the faiths lived in harmony together.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Israel Secretly Using US Law Firm to Fight BDS Activists

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | October 25, 2017

The Israeli news site Haaretz is reporting that the Zionist state’s government has contracted with a U.S. law firm to help it in its fight against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The firm named in the report is Sibley Austin, reportedly the sixth largest corporate law firm in the US. Though based in Chicago, it also has offices overseas, including one in Munich, Germany, and according to documents obtained by Haaretz, it is helping the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry fight BDS activists both in North America and in Europe.

“The Justice Ministry and the Strategic Affairs Ministry have declined to reveal the nature of these activities, for which the state has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two years,” says the Haaretz report. “The ministries call the activities ‘diplomatically extremely sensitive.’”

The Stategic Affairs Ministry is the government body given responsibility for coordinating the fight against “delegitimization,” and the agency’s director describes “gathering intelligence and attacking” as being among its endeavors, Haaretz reports.

Government bids for a law firm to help spearhead the fight against BDS were reportedly put out in early 2016, though the report states that a “detailed description of the services was censored from the document.” The reason was that publication of the information might lead to “damage to the country’s foreign relations and damage to the ability of these bodies to provide the requested service,” says the article.

Apparently Sibley Austin was not the first law firm engaged for the effort. The report mentions one other firm, unnamed, that was hired previously. It also states that the Israeli government has refused to publicize the contracts, leading Haaretz to speculate:

The secrecy surrounding the contracts raises the suspicion that the work involves not only writing legal opinions but also preparing lawsuits against BDS supporters, as Israel does not want to be revealed as supporting such actions, to avoid the perception that it is interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

The comment about “gathering intelligence and attacking” apparently has at least one Israeli human rights lawyer concerned. Eitay Mack, who has defended the rights of Palestinians and who has also fought for release of information on the government’s anti-BDS efforts, says, “It is deeply worrying that the military terminology used by senior officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry is being used in the fight against civilians abroad who criticize the State of Israel.”

The report goes on to note that, “Sidley Austin did not reply to questions on whether it was working for the Israeli government.”

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 4 Comments

What Did Hillary Clinton Know?

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 25, 2017

The revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped pay for the notorious “Steele Dossier” of hearsay claims about Donald Trump’s relations with Russia is not surprising but is noteworthy given how long the mystery about the funding was allowed to linger.

Another mild surprise is that the Clinton campaign would have had a direct hand in the financing rather than maintaining an arm’s length relationship to the dossier by having some “friend of the campaign” make the payments and giving Clinton more deniability.

Instead, the campaign appears to have relied on its lawyer, Marc E. Elias of Perkins Coie, and a confidentiality agreement to provide some insulation between Clinton and the dossier’s startling claims which presumably helped inform Clinton’s charge in the final presidential debate that Trump was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.” Indeed, how much Clinton personally knew about the dossier and its financing remains an intriguing question for investigators.

Ultimately, the facts about who commissioned the dossier were forced out by a congressional Republican subpoena seeking the bank records of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele to compile the opposition research, known as “oppo,” against Trump.

As part of the legal wrangling over that subpoena, the Clinton/DNC law firm, Perkins Coie, wrote a letter releasing Fusion GPS from its confidentiality agreement.

After that letter, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday night that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had helped fund the Steele effort with attorney Elias retaining Fusion GPS in April 2016 and with Fusion GPS then hiring Steele.

The Post reported that “people familiar with the matter” disclosed that outline of the arrangement but still would not divulge how much the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid to Fusion GPS. One source told me that the total amount came to about $1 million.

‘Trash for Cash’

An irony about Hillary Clinton’s role in funding allegations about Trump’s connection to the Russians, including claims that he cavorted with prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel while Russian intelligence operatives secretly filmed him, is that the Clinton camp bristled when Bill Clinton was the subject of Republican “oppo” that surfaced salacious charges against him. The Clintons dismissed such accusations as “cash for trash.”

Nevertheless, just as conspiratorial accusations about the Clintons gave rise to the Whitewater investigation and a rash of other alleged “scandals,” which bedeviled Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Steele Dossier — also known as the “Dirty Dossier” — provided a map that investigators have followed for the ongoing Russia-gate investigation into President Trump.

Much like those Clinton allegations, Steele’s accusations have had a dubious track record for accuracy, with U.S. government investigators unable to corroborate some key claims but, I’m told, believing that some are true nonetheless.

In the 1990s, even though the core allegations of wrongdoing about the Clintons and their Whitewater land deal collapsed, the drawn-out investigation eventually unearthed Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and led to his impeachment in the House although he was acquitted in a Senate trial.

Some Democrats have openly hoped for the impeachment of President Trump, too, and they have hitched many of those hopes to the Russia-gate bandwagon.

There is also no doubt about the significance of the Steele Dossier in spurring the Russia-gate scandal forward.

When Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, offered what amounted to a prosecutor’s opening statement in March, his seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the trail blazed by Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia and tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including supposedly leadership figures in the Kremlin.

Steele’s Methods

Since Steele could not reenter Russia himself, he based his reports on multiple hearsay from these anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into “raw” intelligence reports.

Besides the anonymous sourcing and the sources’ financial incentives to dig up dirt, Steele’s reports had other problems, including the inability of FBI investigators to confirm key elements, such as the claim that several years ago Russian intelligence operatives secretly videotaped Trump having prostitutes urinate on him while he lay in the same bed at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton used by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

That tantalizing tidbit was included in Steele’s opening report to his new clients, dated June 20, 2016. Apparently, it proved irresistible in whetting the appetite of Clinton insiders. Also in that first report were the basic outlines of Russia-gate.

But Steele’s June report also reflected the telephone-tag aspects of these allegations: “Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for a least 5 years.

“Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN. Its aim was to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimical to Russia’s interests. … In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years. …

“The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.”

Besides the anonymous and hearsay quality of the allegations, there are obvious logical problems, especially the point that five years before the 2016 campaign, virtually no one would have thought that Trump had any chance of becoming President of the United States.

There also may have been a more mundane reason why Trump’s hotel deal fell through. A source familiar with those negotiations told me that Trump had hoped to get a half interest in the $2 billion project but that Russian-Israeli investor Mikhail Fridman, a founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, balked because Trump was unwilling to commit a significant investment beyond the branding value of the Trump name.

Yet, one would assume that if the supposedly all-powerful Putin wanted to give a $1 billion or so payoff to his golden boy, Donald Trump, whom Putin anticipated would become President in five years, the deal would have happened, but it didn’t.

Despite the dubious quality of Steele’s second- and third-hand information, the June 2016 report appears to have impressed Team Clinton. And once the bait was taken, Steele continued to produce his conspiracy-laden reports, totaling at least 17 through Dec. 13, 2016.

Framing the Investigation

The reports not only captivated the Clinton political operatives but influenced the assessments of President Obama’s appointees in the U.S. intelligence community regarding alleged Russian “meddling” in the presidential election.

Still, a careful analysis of Steele’s reports would have discovered not only apparent factual inaccuracies, such as putting Trump lawyer Michael Cohen at a meeting with a Russian official in Prague (when Cohen says he’s never been to Prague), but also the sort of broad conspiracy-mongering that the mainstream U.S. news media usually loves to ridicule.

For instance, Steele’s reports pin a range of U.S. political attitudes on Russian manipulation rather than the notion that Americans can reach reasonable conclusions on their own. In one report dated Sept. 14, 2016, Steele claimed that an unnamed senior official in Putin’s Presidential Administration (or PA) explained how Putin used the alleged Russian influence operation to generate opposition to Obama’s Pacific trade deals.

Steele wrote that Putin’s intention was “pushing candidate CLINTON away from President OBAMA’s policies. The best example of this was that both candidates [Clinton and Trump] now openly opposed the draft trade agreements, TPP and TTIP, which were assessed by Moscow as detrimental to Russian interests.”

In other words, the Russians supposedly intervened in the U.S. presidential campaign to turn the leading candidates against Obama’s trade deals. But how credible is that? Are we to believe that American politicians – running the gamut from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren through former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Donald Trump – have all been tricked by the Kremlin to oppose those controversial trade deals, which are also broadly unpopular with the American people who are sick and tired of trade agreements that cost them jobs?

Of course, the disclosure that the Clinton campaign and the DNC helped pay for Steele’s opposition research doesn’t necessarily discredit the information, but it does suggest a possible financial incentive for Steele and his collaborators to sex-up the reports to keep Clinton’s camp coming back for more.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment