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Mega Group, Maxwells, and Mossad: The Spy Story at the Heart of the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal

The picture painted by the evidence is not a direct Epstein tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | August 7, 2019

As billionaire pedophile and alleged sex-trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein sits in prison, reports have continued to surface about his reported links to intelligence, his financial ties to several companies and “charitable” foundations, and his friendships with the rich and powerful as well as top politicians.

While Part I and Part II of this series, “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” have focused on the widespread nature of sexual blackmail operations in recent American history and their ties to the heights of American political power and the U.S. intelligence community, one key aspect of Epstein’s own sex-trafficking and blackmail operation that warrants examination is Epstein’s ties to Israeli intelligence and his ties to the “informal” pro-Israel philanthropist faction known as “the Mega Group.”

The Mega Group’s role in the Epstein case has garnered some attention, as Epstein’s main financial patron for decades, billionaire Leslie Wexner, was a co-founder of the group that unites several well-known businessmen with a penchant for pro-Israel and ethno-philanthropy (i.e., philanthropy benefiting a single ethnic or ethno-religious group). However, as this report will show, another uniting factor among Mega Group members is deep ties to organized crime, specifically the organized crime network discussed in Part I of this series, which was largely led by notorious American mobster Meyer Lansky.

By virtue of the role of many Mega Group members as major political donors in both the U.S. and Israel, several of its most notable members have close ties to the governments of both countries as well as their intelligence communities. As this report and a subsequent report will show, the Mega Group also had close ties to two businessmen who worked for Israel’s Mossad — Robert Maxwell and Marc Rich — as well as to top Israeli politicians, including past and present prime ministers with deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community.

One of those businessmen working for the Mossad, Robert Maxwell, will be discussed at length in this report. Maxwell, who was a business partner of Mega Group co-founder Charles Bronfman, aided the successful Mossad plot to plant a trapdoor in U.S.-created software that was then sold to governments and companies throughout the world. That plot’s success was largely due to the role of a close associate of then-President Ronald Reagan and an American politician close to Maxwell, who later helped aid Reagan in the cover-up of the Iran Contra scandal.

Years later, Maxwell’s daughter — Ghislaine Maxwell — would join Jeffrey Epstein’s “inner circle” at the same time Epstein was bankrolling a similar software program now being marketed for critical electronic infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad. That company has deep and troubling connections to Israeli military intelligence, associates of the Trump administration, and the Mega Group.

Epstein appears to have ties to Israeli intelligence and has well-documented ties to influential Israeli politicians and the Mega Group. Yet, those entities are not isolated in and of themselves, as many also connect to the organized crime network and powerful alleged pedophiles discussed in previous installments of this series.

Perhaps the best illustration of how the connections between many of these players often meld together can be seen in Ronald Lauder: a Mega Group member, former member of the Reagan administration, long-time donor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Likud Party, as well as a long-time friend of Donald Trump and Roy Cohn.

From cosmetics heir to political player

One often overlooked yet famous client and friend of Roy Cohn is the billionaire heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune, Ronald Lauder. Lauder is often described in the press as a “leading Jewish philanthropist” and is the president of the World Jewish Congress, yet his many media profiles tend to leave out his highly political past.

In a statement given by Lauder to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman in 2018, the cosmetics heir noted that he has known Trump for over 50 years, going back at least to the early 1970s. According to Lauder, his relationship with Trump began when Trump was a student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which Lauder also attended.

Though the exact nature of their early friendship is unclear, it is evident that they shared many of the same connections, including to the man who would later count them both as his clients, Roy Cohn. While much has been said of the ties between Cohn and Trump, Cohn was particularly close to Lauder’s mother, Estee Lauder (born Josephine Mentzer). Estee was even counted among Cohn’s most high-profile friends in his New York Times obituary.

A small window into the Lauder-Cohn relationship surfaced briefly in a 2016 article in Politico about a 1981 dinner party held at Cohn’s weekend home in Greenwich, Connecticut. The party was attended by Ronald Lauder’s parents, Estee and Joe, as well as Trump and his then-wife Ivana, who had a weekend home just two miles away. That party was held soon after Cohn had helped Reagan secure the presidency and had reached the height of his political influence. At the party, Cohn offered toasts to Reagan and to then-Senator for New York Alfonse D’Amato, who would later urge Ronald Lauder to run for political office.

Two years later, in 1983, Ronald Lauder — whose only professional experience at that point was working for his parent’s cosmetics company — was appointed to serve as United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs. Soon after his appointment, he served on the Dinner Tribute Committee for a dinner hosted by the Jewish fraternal and strongly pro-Israel organization B’nai B’rith, the parent organization of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in Roy Cohn’s honor. Cohn’s influential father, Albert Cohn, was the long-time president of B’nai B’rith’s powerful New England-New York chapter and Roy Cohn himself was a member of B’nai B’rith’s Banking and Finance Lodge.

The dinner specifically sought to honor Cohn for his pro-Israel advocacy and his efforts to “fortify” Israel’s economy, and its honorary chairmen included media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and then-head of Bear Stearns Alan Greenberg, all of whom are connected to Jeffrey Epstein.

During his time as deputy assistant secretary of defense, Lauder was also very active in Israeli politics and had already become an ally of the then-Israeli representative to the United Nations and future prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Lauder would go on to be one of the most important individuals in Netanyahu’s rise to power, particularly during his upset victory in 1996, and a major financier of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party.

In 1986, the year that Roy Cohn died, Lauder left his post at the Pentagon and became the U.S. ambassador to Austria, where his tenure was shaped by his confrontations with the then-Austrian president and former Nazi collaborator, Kurt Waldheim. Lauder’s interest in Austrian politics has continued well into recent years, culminating in accusations that he sought to manipulate Austrian elections in 2012.

After leaving his ambassadorship, Lauder founded the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation in 1987 and later went on to run for Mayor of New York against Rudy Giuliani in 1989. Lauder was encouraged to run by then-Senator Alfonse D’Amato, who had close ties to Roy Cohn and his long-time law partner Tom Bolan, who was D’Amato’s adviser. At the aforementioned 1983 B’nai B’rith dinner honoring Cohn, D’Amato was the featured speaker.

The likely reason was that Giuliani, though once an ally of the “Roy Cohn machine,” was at the time deeply disliked by the late Cohn’s associates for prosecuting Cohn’s former law partner, Stanley Friedman, for racketeering, conspiracy and other charges. Giuliani also had a history of bitter disagreements with D’Amato. Lauder’s primary campaign, though unsuccessful, was noted for its viciousness and its cost, as it burned through more than $13 million.

A few years later, in the early 1990s, Lauder would join a newly formed group that has long evaded scrutiny from the media but has recently become of interest in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein scandal: the Mega Group.

Lauder, Epstein and the mysterious Austrian passport

Before getting to the Mega Group, it is worth noting one particular act apparently undertaken by Lauder while he was U.S. ambassador to Austria that has recently come to light in relation to the arrest in early July of Jeffrey Epstein, a finding first reported by journalist Edward Szall. When police recently discovered an Austrian passport with Epstein’s picture and a fake name after raiding his Manhattan residence, the source and purpose of the passport came under media scrutiny.

According to the Associated Press, Epstein’s defense lawyers specifically argued that “a friend gave it to him [Epstein] in the 1980s after some Jewish-Americans were informally advised to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally during a period when hijackings were more common.” This claim appears to be related to concerns that followed the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 in 1976 when Israeli and Jewish hostages were separated from other hostages based largely on the passports in their possession.

Given that Epstein was unable to meet the conventional qualifications for an Austrian passport — including long-term residency in Austria (the passport lists him as a resident of Saudi Arabia) and fluency in German — it appears that the only way to have acquired an Austrian passport was by unconventional means, meaning assistance from a well-connected Austrian official or foreign diplomat with clout in Austria.

Ronald Lauder, right, and Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima pose with students from the Lauder Chabad School in Vienna, Austria in 1999. Martin Gnedt | AP

Lauder, then-ambassador to Austria for the Reagan administration, would have been well-positioned to acquire such a passport, particularly for the reason cited by Epstein’s attorneys that Jewish-Americans could be targeted during travel, and in light of Lauder’s very public concerns over threats Jews face from certain terror groups. Furthermore, the passport had been issued in 1987, when Lauder was still serving as an ambassador.

In addition, Lauder was well-connected to Epstein’s former patron — former head of Bear Stearns Alan Greenberg, who had hired Epstein in the late 1970s immediately after the latter was fired from the Dalton School — and Donald Trump, another friend of Lauder and Greenberg who began his friendship with Epstein in 1987, the same year the fake Austrian passport was issued. In 1987, Epstein also began his relationship with his principal financier, Leslie Wexner, who is also closely associated with Lauder (though some sources claim that Epstein and Wexner first met in 1985 but that their strong business relationship was not established until 1987).

Though Epstein’s defense attorney declined to reveal the identity of the “friend” who provided him with the fake Austrian passport, Lauder was both well-positioned to acquire it in Austria and also deeply connected to the Mega Group, which was co-founded by Epstein’s patron Leslie Wexner and to which Epstein has many connections. These connections to both the Austrian government and to Epstein’s mentor make Lauder the most likely person to have acquired the document on Epstein’s behalf.

Furthermore, Epstein and the Mega Group’s ties to the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, also suggest Lauder was involved in procuring the passport, in light of his close ties to the Israeli government and the fact that Mossad has a history of using ambassadors abroad to procure false, foreign passports for its operatives.

Lauder himself has been alleged to have ties to Mossad, as he is a long-time funder of IDC Herzliya, an Israeli university closely associated with Mossad and their recruiters as well as Israeli military intelligence. Lauder even founded IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy.

Furthermore, Lauder co-founded the Eastern European broadcasting network CETV with Mark Palmer, a former U.S. diplomat, Kissinger aide and Reagan speechwriter. Palmer is better known for co-founding the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization often described as an accessory to U.S. intelligence, and one whose first president confessed to the Washington Post that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” A 2001 report in the Evening Standard noted that Epstein once claimed that during the 1980s he worked for the CIA, but Epstein later backed away from that assertion.

The origins of the Mega Group Mafia

The Mega Group — a secretive group of billionaires to which Lauder belongs — was formed in 1991 by Charles Bronfman and Leslie Wexner, the latter of whom has received considerable media scrutiny following the July arrest of his former protege Jeffrey Epstein. Media profiles of the group paint it as “a loosely organized club of 20 of the nation’s wealthiest and most influential Jewish businessmen” focused on “philanthropy and Jewishness,” with membership dues upwards of $30,000 per year. Yet several of its most prominent members have ties to organized crime.

Mega Group members founded and/or are closely associated with some of the most well-known pro-Israel organizations. For instance, members Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt formed Birthright Taglit with the backing of then- and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Steinhardt, an atheist, has stated that his motivation in helping to found the group was to advance his own belief that devotion to and faith in the state of Israel should serve as “a substitute for [Jewish] theology.”

Other well-known groups associated with the Mega Group include the World Jewish Congress — whose past president, Edgar Bronfman, and current president, Ronald Lauder, are both Mega Group members — and B’nai B’rith, particularly its spin-off known as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The Bronfman brothers were major donors to the ADL, with Edgar Bronfman serving as the ADL’s honorary national vice-chair for several years.

Former Israeli president Shimon Peres, second from left, listens to Edgar Bronfman during a 1995 lunch thrown in Peres’ honor. From left are: Laurence Tisch, Chairman, President and Chief executive officer of CBS; Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Itamar Rabinowitz and Bronfman. David Karp | AP

When Edgar Bronfman died in 2013, long-time ADL Director Abe Foxman said, “Edgar was for many years Chair of our Liquor Industry Division, Chair of our New York Appeal, and one of our most significant benefactors.” Other Mega Group members that are donors and major supporters of the ADL include Ronald Lauder, Michael Steinhardt and the late Max Fisher. As previously mentioned, Roy Cohn’s father was a long-time leader of B’nai B’rith’s influential New England-New York chapter and Cohn was later a celebrated member of its banking and finance lodge.

In addition, Mega Group members have also been key players in the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. For instance, Max Fisher of the Mega Group founded the National Jewish Coalition, now known as the Republican Jewish Coalition — the main pro-Israel neoconservative political lobbying group, known for its support of hawkish policies, and whose current chief patrons, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, are among Donald Trump’s top donors.

Though the Mega Group has officially existed only since 1991, the use of “philanthropy” to provide cover for more unscrupulous lobbying or business activities was pioneered decades earlier by Sam Bronfman, the father of Mega Group members Edgar and Charles Bronfman. While other North American elites like J.D. Rockefeller had previously used philanthropic giving as a means of laundering their reputations, Bronfman’s approach to philanthropy was unique because it was focused on giving specifically to other members of his own ethno-religious background.

Sam Bronfman, as was detailed in Part I of this series, had long-standing deep ties to organized crime, specifically Meyer Lanksy’s organized crime syndicate. Yet, Bronfman’s private ambition, according to those close to him, was to become a respected member of high society. As a consequence, Bronfman worked hard to remove the stain that his mob associations had left on his public reputation in Canada and abroad. He accomplished this by becoming a leader in Canada’s Zionist movement and, by the end of the 1930s, he was head of the Canadian Jewish Congress and had begun to make a name for himself as a philanthropist for Jewish causes.

Yet even some of Bronfman’s activism and philanthropy had hints of the mobster-like reputation he tried so hard to shake. For instance, Bronfman was actively involved in the illegal shipping of arms to Zionist paramilitaries in Palestine prior to 1948, specifically as a co-founder of the National Conference for Israeli and Jewish Rehabilitation that smuggled weapons to the paramilitary group Haganah.

At the same time Bronfman was abetting the illegal smuggling of weapons to the Haganah, his associates in the criminal underworld were doing the same. After World War II, close aides of David Ben-Gurion, who would later become the first prime minister of Israel and was instrumental in the founding of Mossad, forged tight-knit relationships with Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Mickey Cohen and other Jewish gangsters of the period. They used their clandestine networks to establish a vast arms smuggling network between the United States and Zionist settlements in Palestine, arming both the Haganah and the Irgun paramilitary groups. As noted in Part I of this report, at the same time these gangsters were aiding the illegal arming of ZIonsit paramilitaries, they were strengthening their ties to U.S. intelligence that had first been formally (though covertly) established in World War II.

After Israel was founded, Sam Bronfman worked with future Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to negotiate the sale of Canadian armaments at half-price to Israel and the bargain weapons purchase was paid for entirely by a fundraising dinner hosted by Bronfman and his wife. Many years later, Peres would go on to introduce another future prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, to Jeffrey Epstein.

The rest of the Bronfman family’s march on “the road to respectability” was undertaken by Bronfman’s children, who married into aristocratic families such as the European Rothschilds and the Wall Street “royalty” of the Lehmans and the Loebs.

The Bronfmans’ newfound respectability did not mean that their association with the Lansky-led criminal empire had dissolved. Indeed, prominent members of the Seagrams dynasty came under fire in the 1960s and 1970s for their close association with Willie “Obie” Obront, a major figure in Canadian organized crime, whom Canadian professor Stephen Schneider has referred to as the Meyer Lansky of Canada.

However, Edgar and Charles Bronfman were hardly the only members of the Mega Group with deep and long-standing ties to the Lansky-led National Crime Syndicate. Indeed, one of the group’s prominent members, hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, opened up about his own family ties to Lansky in his autobiography No Bull: My Life in and out the Markets, where he noted that his father, Sol “Red McGee” Steinhardt, was Lansky’s jewel fence of choice and a major player in New York’s criminal underworld. Sol Steinhardt was also his son’s first client on Wall Street and helped him jumpstart his career in finance.

The ties between the Mega Group and the National Crime Syndicate don’t stop there. Another prominent member of the Mega Group with ties to this same criminal network is Max Fisher, who has been described as Wexner’s mentor and is also alleged to have worked with Detroit’s “Purple Gang” during Prohibition and beyond. The Purple Gang were part of the network that smuggled Bronfman liquor from Canada into the United State during Prohibition, and one of its founders, Abe Bernstein, was a close associate of both Meyer Lansky and Moe Dalitz. Fisher was a key adviser to several U.S. presidents, beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as to Henry Kissinger.

Max Fisher, center, and Henry Kissinger, right, meet with leaders of Jewish organizations prior to Kissinger’s 1975 Middle East trip. Henry Burroughs | AP

In addition to Fisher, Mega Group member Ronald Lauder was connected to Roy Cohn and Tom Bolan, both of whom were closely associated with this same Lansky-led crime network (see Part I and Part II) and who regularly represented top Mafia figures in court. Furthermore, another member of the Mega Group, director Steven Spielberg, is a well-known protege of Lew Wasserman, the mob-connected media mogul and long-time backer of Ronald Reagan’s film and later political career, discussed in Part II of this series.

One surprise connection to Cohn involves Mega Group member, and former president of U.S. weapons firm General Dynamics, Lester Crown, whose brother-in-law is David Schine, Cohn’s confidant and alleged lover during the McCarthy hearings, whose relationship with Cohn helped bring about the downfall of McCarthyism.

Another member of the Mega Group worth noting is Laurence Tisch, who owned CBS News for several years and founded Loews Corporation. Tisch is notable for his work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, where Donald Barry, who hired Epstein at the Dalton School, also served and which forged ties with Lansky’s criminal empire during World War II.

Wexner’s mansions and the Shapiro murder

Leslie “Les” Wexner, the other Mega Group co-founder, also has ties to organized crime. Wexner’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein have come under scrutiny following the latter’s recent arrest, as Wexner was the only publicly acknowledged client of Epstein’s suspicious hedge fund, the source of much of this wealth, and the previous owner of Epstein’s $56 million Manhattan townhouse, which Wexner transferred to an Epstein-controlled entity for free.

Before Epstein received the townhouse, Wexner appears to have used the residence for some unconventional purposes, noted in a 1996 New York Times article on the then-Wexner-owned residence, which included “a bathroom reminiscent of James Bond movies: hidden beneath a stairway, lined with lead to provide shelter from attack and supplied with closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet beneath the sink.” The Times article does not speculate as to the purpose of this equipment, though the allusion to famous fictional superspy James Bond suggests that it may have been used to snoop on guests or conduct electronic surveillance.

The 1996 Times article also noted that, after Wexner bought the residence for $13.2 million in 1989, he spent millions more decorating and furnishing the home, including the addition of the electronic equipment in the “James Bond” bathroom, only to apparently never live in it. The Times, which interviewed Epstein for the piece, quoted him as saying that “Les never spent more than two months there.” Epstein told the Times, which identified Epstein as Wexner’s “protege and one of his financial advisers,” that the house, by that time, already belonged to him.

That same year, Epstein was commissioning artwork for Wexner’s Ohio mansion. A recent article from the Times noted that:

In the summer of 1996, Maria Farmer was working on an art project for Mr. Epstein in Mr. Wexner’s Ohio mansion. While she was there, Mr. Epstein sexually assaulted her, according to an affidavit Ms. Farmer filed earlier this year in federal court in Manhattan. She said that she fled the room and called the police, but that Mr. Wexner’s security staff refused to let her leave for 12 hours.”

Farmer’s account strongly suggests that, given the behavior of his personal security staff at his mansion following Epstein’s alleged assault on Farmer, Wexner was well aware of Epstein’s predatory behavior towards young women. This is compounded by claims made by Alan Dershowitz — a former lawyer for and friend of Epstein’s, who has also been accused of raping underage girls — that Wexner has also been accused of raping underage girls exploited by Epstein on at least seven occasions.

The presence of the electronic equipment in his home’s bathroom, other oddities related to the townhouse, and aspects of the links between Epstein and Wexner suggest there is more to Wexner, who has rather successfully developed a public image of a respectable businessman and philanthropist, much like other prominent members of the Mega Group.

Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail tour the “Transfigurations” exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Jay LaPrete | AP

However, bits and pieces of Wexner’s private secrets have occasionally bubbled up, only to be subjected to rapid cover-ups amidst concerns of “libeling” the powerful and well-connected billionaire “philanthropist.”

In 1985, Columbus (Ohio) lawyer Arthur Shapiro was murdered in broad daylight at point-blank range in what was largely referred to as a “mob style murder.” The homicide still remains unsolved, likely due to the fact that then-Columbus Police Chief James Jackson ordered the destruction of key documents of his department’s investigation into the murder.

Jackson’s ordering of the documents’ destruction came to light years later in 1996, when he was under investigation for corruption. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Jackson justified the destruction of one “viable and valuable” report because he felt that it “was so filled with wild speculation about prominent business leaders that it was potentially libelous.” The nature of this “wild speculation” was that “millionaire businessmen in Columbus and Youngstown were linked to the ‘mob-style murder.’”

Though Jackson’s efforts were meant to keep this “libelous” report far from public view, it was eventually obtained by Bob Fitrakis — attorney, journalist, and executive director of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism — after he was “accidentally” sent a copy of the report in 1998 as part of a public records request.

The report, titled “Shapiro Homicide Investigation: Analysis and Hypothesis,” names Leslie Wexner as linked “with associates reputed to be organized crime figures” and also lists the names of businessman Jack Kessler, former Columbus City Council President and Wexner associate Jerry Hammond, and former Columbus City Council member Les Wright as also being involved in Shapiro’s murder.

The report also noted that Arthur Shapiro’s law firm — Schwartz, Shapiro, Kelm & Warren — represented Wexner’s company, The Limited, and states that “prior to his death, Arthur Shapiro managed this account [The Limited] for the law firm.” It also noted that, at the time of his death, Shapiro “was the subject of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service because he had failed to file income tax returns for some seven years prior to his death, and he had invested in some questionable tax shelters.” It also stated that his death prevented Shapiro from his planned testimony at a grand jury hearing about these “questionable tax shelters.”

As to Wexner’s alleged links to organized crime, the report focuses on the close business relationship between Wexner’s The Limited and Francis Walsh, whose trucking company “[had] done an excess of 90 percent of the Limited’s trucking business around the time of Shapiro’s murder,” according to the report. Walsh was named in a 1988 indictment as a “co-conspirator” of Genovese crime family boss Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, whose long-time lawyer was Roy Cohn; and the Shapiro murder report stated that Walsh was “still considered associates of the Genovese/LaRocca crime family, and Walsh was still providing truck transportation for The Limited.”

Notably, the Genovese crime family has long formed a key part of the National Crime Syndicate, as its former head, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, co-created the criminal organization with his close friend Meyer Lansky. Upon Luciano’s imprisonment and subsequent deportation from the United States, Lansky took over the syndicate’s U.S. operations and his association with Luciano’s successors continued until Lansky’s death in 1983.

The “Mega” Mystery and the Mossad

In May 1997, the Washington Post broke an explosive story — long since forgotten — based on an intercepted phone call made between a Mossad official in the U.S. and his superior in Tel Aviv that discussed the Mossad’s efforts to obtain a secret U.S. government document. According to the Post, the Mossad official stated during the phone call that “Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben Elissar had asked him whether he could obtain a copy of the letter given to [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat by [then-Secretary of State Warren] Christopher on Jan. 16, the day after the Hebron accord was signed by Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”

The Post article continued:

According to a source who viewed a copy of the NSA transcript of the conversation, the intelligence officer, speaking in Hebrew, said, ‘The ambassador wants me to go to Mega to get a copy of this letter.’ The source said the supervisor in Tel Aviv rejected the request, saying, ‘This is not something we use Mega for.’”

The leaked communication led to an investigation that sought to identify an individual code-named “Mega” that the Post said “may be someone in the U.S. government who has provided information to the Israelis in the past,” a concern that subsequently spawned a fruitless FBI investigation. The Mossad later claimed that “Mega” was merely a codeword for the U.S.’ CIA, but the FBI and NSA were unconvinced by that claim and believed that it was a senior U.S. government official that had potentially once been involved in working with Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. naval intelligence analyst later convicted of spying for the Mossad.

Almost one year to the day after the “Mega” spy scandal broke, the Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report on the existence of a little-known organization of billionaires that was “informally” called the Mega Group and had been founded years prior in 1991. The report made no mention of the spy scandal that had spread concerns of Israeli espionage in the U.S. only a year prior. However, the group’s distinctive “informal” name and the connections of its members to the Mossad and to high-ranking Israeli politicians, including prime ministers, raise the possibility that “Mega” was not an individual, as the FBI and NSA had believed, but a group.

In 1997, when the “Mega” spy scandal broke, Netanyahu had recently become prime minister of Israel after an upset victory, a victory that was largely credited to one well-connected Netanyahu backer in particular, Ronald Lauder. Beyond being a major donor, Lauder had brought Arthur Finklestein on to work for Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign, whose strategies were credited for Netanyahu’s surprise win. Netanyahu was close enough to Lauder that he personally enlisted Lauder and George Nader to serve as his peace envoys to Syria.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Ronald Lauder in 1997. Photo | Reuters

Nader, who was connected to the Trump 2016 campaign and Trump ally and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, was recently hit with federal child sex trafficking charges last month, soon after Jeffrey Epstein had been arrested on similar charges. At the time Nader was picked to work with Lauder on Netanyahu’s behalf, he had already been caught possessing large amounts of child pornography on two separate occasions, first in 1984 and later in 1990.

This strong connection between Netanyahu and Lauder during the time of the 1997 “Mega” spy scandal is important considering Mossad answers directly to Israel’s prime minister.

Another possible connection between the Mega Group and the Mossad owes to the Mega Group’s ties to Meyer Lansky’s criminal network. As was detailed in Part I, Lansky had established deep ties to U.S. intelligence after World War II and was also connected to the Mossad through Mossad official Tibor Rosenbaum, whose bank was frequently used by Lansky to launder money. In addition, Lansky collaborated on at least one occasion with notorious Mossad “superspy” Rafi Eitan, who he helped acquire sensitive electronic equipment possessed only by the CIA but coveted by Israeli intelligence. Eitan is best known in the U.S. for being the Mossad handler of Jonathan Pollard.

Notably, Eitan was the main source of claims that the code-word “Mega” used by the Mossad officials in 1997 referred to the CIA and not to a potential source in the U.S. government once linked to Pollard’s spying activities, making his claims as to the true meaning of the term somewhat dubious.

Given that the organized crime network tied to the Mega Group had ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, the “Mega” codeword could plausibly have referred to this secretive group of billionaires. More supporting evidence for this theory comes from the fact that prominent members of the Mega Group were business partners of Mossad agents, including media mogul Robert Maxwell and commodities trader Marc Rich.

The mysterious Maxwells

The Maxwell family has become a source of renewed media interest following Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest, as Ghislaine Maxwell, long described in the media as a British “socialite,” was publicly cited as Epstein’s long-time “on and off” girlfriend, and Epstein’s victims, as well as former wives of Epstein’s friends, have claimed that she was Epstein’s “pimp” and procured underage girls for his sexual blackmail operation. Ghislaine Maxwell is also alleged to have engaged in the rape of the girls she procured for Epstein and to have used them to produce child pornography.

Ghislaine was the favorite and youngest daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. Maxwell, born Jan Ludvick Hoch, had joined the British Army in World War II. Afterwards, according to authors John Loftus and Mark Aarons, he greatly influenced the Czechoslovakian government’s decision to arm Zionist paramilitaries during the 1948 war that resulted in Israel’s creation as a state, and Maxwell himself was also involved in the smuggling of aircraft parts to Israel.

Around this time, Maxwell was approached by British intelligence outfit MI6 and offered a position that Maxwell ultimately declined. MI6 then classified him as “Zionist — loyal only to Israel” and made him a person of interest. He later became an agent of the Mossad, according to several books including Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, and Robert Maxwell: Israel’s Superspy by Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon.

According to Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad case officer:

Mossad was financing many of its operations in Europe from money stolen from Maxwell’s newspaper pension fund. They got their hands on the funds almost as soon as Maxwell made the purchase of the Mirror Newspaper Group with money lent to him by Mossad.”

In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, “the service maintained for blackmail purposes.” It was later revealed that the hotel in which he stayed in Israel was bugged with cameras, allowing the Mossad to acquire “a small library of video footage of Maxwell in sexually compromising positions.” As with the CIA, the Mossad’s use of blackmail against both friend and foe is well-documented and known to be extensive.

Maxwell was also a close associate and friend of Israeli “superspy” Rafi Eitan, who, as previously mentioned, was Jonathan Pollard’s handler and who had previously worked directly with Meyer Lansky. Eitan had learned of a revolutionary new software being used by the U.S. government known as “Promis” from Earl Brian, a long-time associate and aide to Ronald Reagan. Promis is often considered the forerunner to the “Prism” software used by spy agencies today and was developed by William Hamilton, who leased the software to the U.S. government through his company, Inslaw, in 1982.

Ariel Sharon (right)meets with Robert Maxwell in Jerusalem on Feb. 20, 1990. Photo | AP

According to author and former BBC investigative journalist Gordon Thomas, Brian was angry that the U.S. Department of Justice was successfully using Promis to go after organized crime and money-laundering activities and Eitan felt that the program could aid Israel and restore his own standing within the Israeli intelligence community, which had been damaged by the public disclosure of Eitan’s involvement in the Pollard affair and Iran Contra.

A plan was hatched to install a “trapdoor” into the software and then market Promis throughout the world, providing the Mossad with invaluable intelligence on the operations of its enemies and allies while also providing Eitan and Brian with copious amounts of cash. According to the testimony of ex-Mossad official Ari Ben-Menashe, Brian provided a copy of Promis to Israel’s military intelligence, which contacted an Israeli American programmer living in California who then planted the “trapdoor” in the software. The CIA was later said to have installed its own trapdoor in the software but it is unknown if they did so with a version of the already bugged software and how widely it was adopted relative to the version bugged by Israeli intelligence.

After the trapdoor was inserted, the problem became selling the bugged version of the software to governments as well as private companies around the world, particularly in areas of interest. Brian first attempted to buy out Inslaw and Promis and then use that same company to sell the bugged version.

Unsuccessful, Brian turned to his close friend, then-Attorney General Ed Meese whose Justice Department then abruptly refused to make the payments to Inslaw that were stipulated by the contract, essentially using the software for free, which Inslaw claimed to be theft. Some have speculated that Meese’s role in that decision was shaped, not only by his friendship with Brian, but the fact that his wife was a major investor in Brian’s business ventures. Meese would later become an adviser to Donald Trump when he was president-elect.

Inslaw was forced to declare bankruptcy as a result of Meese’s actions and sued the Justice Department. The court later found that the Meese-led department “took, converted, stole” the software through “trickery, fraud and deceit.”

With Inslaw out of the way, Brian sold the software all over the world. Eitan later recruited Robert Maxwell to become another Promis salesman, which he did remarkably well, even succeeding in selling the software to Soviet intelligence and conspiring with Republican Texas Senator John Tower to have the software adopted by the U.S. government laboratory at Los Alamos. Dozens of countries used the software on their most carefully guarded computer systems, unaware that Mossad now had access to everything Promis touched.

Whereas the Mossad’s past reliance on gathering intelligence had relied on the same tactics used by its equivalents in the U.S. and elsewhere, the widespread adoption of the Promis software, largely through the actions of Earl Brian and Robert Maxwell, gave the Mossad a way to gather not just troves of counterintelligence data, but also blackmail on other intelligence agencies and powerful figures.

Indeed, Promis’ backdoor and adoption by intelligence agencies all over the world essentially provided the Mossad with access to troves of blackmail that the CIA and FBI had acquired on their friends and foes for over half a century. Strangely, in recent years, the FBI has sought to hide information related to Robert Maxwell’s connection to the Promis scandal.

According to journalist Robert Fisk, Maxwell was also involved in the Mossad abduction of Israeli nuclear weapons whistleblower Vanunu Mordechai. Mordechai had attempted to provide the media with information on the extent of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which was eventually published by the Sunday Times of London. Yet, Mordechai had also contacted the Daily Mirror with the information, the Mirror being an outlet that was owned by Maxwell and whose foreign editor was a close Maxwell associate and alleged Mossad asset, Nicholas Davies. Journalist Seymour Hersh alleged that Davies had also been involved in Israeli arms deals.

Per Fisk, it was Maxwell who contacted the Israeli Embassy in London and told them of Mordechai’s activities. This led to Mordechai’s entrapment by a female Mossad agent who seduced him as part of a “honey trap” operation that led to his kidnapping and later imprisonment in Israel. Mordechai served an 18-year sentence, 12 years of which were in solitary confinement.

Then, there is the issue of Maxwell’s death, widely cited by mainstream and independent media alike as suspicious and a potential homicide. According to authors Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon, Maxwell had sealed his own fate when he attempted to threaten top Mossad officials with the exposure of certain operations if they did not help him rescue his media empire from crippling debt and financial difficulties. Many of Maxwell’s creditors, who had grown increasingly displeased with the media mogul, were Israeli and several of them were alleged to be Mossad-connected themselves.

Thomas and Dillon argue in their biography of Maxwell’s life that the Mossad felt that Maxwell had become more of a liability than an asset and killed him on his yacht three months after he demanded the bailout. On the other extreme are theories that suggest Maxwell committed suicide because of the financial difficulties his empire faced.

Ghislaine Maxwell, far right, Robert Maxwell’s daughter, looks on as his casket is unloaded from a plane in Jerusalem, Nov. 8, 1991. Heribert Proepper | AP

Some have taken Maxwell’s funeral held in Israel as the country’s “official” confirmation of Maxwell’s service to the Mossad, as it was likened to a state funeral and attended by no less than six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence. During his funeral service in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized him and stated: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said.” Other eulogies were given by future Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert (then Health Minister) and Shimon Peres, with the latter also praising Maxwell’s “services” on behalf of Israel.

Swimming in the same swamp

As he built his business empire — and even became a member of Parliament, Maxwell was also doing work for Israeli intelligence, as several of the Israeli companies in which he invested became fronts for the Mossad. In addition, as he became a media mogul, he developed a bitter rivalry with Rupert Murdoch, a close friend of Roy Cohn and an influential figure in American and British media.

Maxwell also partnered with the Bronfman brothers, Edgar and Charles — key figures in the Mega Group. In 1989 Maxwell and Charles Bronfman partnered up to bid on the Jerusalem Post newspaper and the Post described the two men as “two of the world’s leading Jewish financiers” and their interest in the venture as “developing The Jerusalem Post and expanding its influence among world Jewry.” A year prior, Maxwell and Bronfman had become top shareholders in the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva.

Maxwell also worked with Charles Bronfman’s brother Edgar in the late 1980s to convince the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. Edgar’s efforts in this regard have received more attention, as it was a defining moment of his decades-long presidency of the World Jewish Congress, of which Ronald Lauder is currently president. Yet, Maxwell had also made considerable use of his contacts in the Soviet government in this effort.

Maxwell also moved in the circles of the network previously described in Parts I and II in this series. A key example of this is the May 1989 party Maxwell hosted on his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine — named for his youngest daughter and Epstein’s future “girlfriend.” Attendees of the party included Roy Cohn’s protege Donald Trump and his long-time law partner Tom Bolan. A close friend of Nancy Reagan was also present, journalist Mike Wallace, as was literary agent Mort Janklow, who represented Ronald Reagan and two of Cohn’s closest friends: journalists William Safire and Barbara Walters.

The CEO of what would soon become Time Warner, Steve Ross, was also invited to the exclusive event. Ross’ presence is notable, as he had built his business empire largely through his association with New York crime lords Manny Kimmel and Abner “Longy” Zwillman. Zwillman was a close friend of Meyer Lansky, Michael Steinhardt’s father, and Sam Bronfman, father of Edgar and Charles Bronfman.

Another attendee of the Maxwell yacht party was former Secretary of the Navy and former Henry Kissinger staffer Jon Lehman, who would go on to associate with the controversial neoconservative think tank, Project for a New American Century. Prior to being secretary of the Navy, Lehman had been president of the Abington Corporation, which hired arch-neocon Richard Perle to manage the portfolio of Israeli arms dealers Shlomo Zabludowicz and his son Chaim, who paid Ablington $10,000 month. A scandal arose when those payments continued after both Lehman and Perle joined the Reagan Department of Defense and while Perle was working to persuade the Pentagon to buy arms from companies linked to Zabludowicz. Perle had been part of the Reagan transition team along with Roy Cohn’s long-time friend and law partner Tom Bolan (another Maxwell yacht guest).

In addition to Lehman, another former Kissinger staffer, Thomas Pickering was present at Maxwell’s yacht part. Pickering played a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair and, at the time of the Maxwell yacht party, he was U.S. ambassador to Israel. Senator John Tower (R-TX), who allegedly conspired with Maxwell in the Mossad-bugged Promis software at the Los Alamos laboratories, was also present. Tower died just months before Maxwell in a suspicious plane crash.

Ghislaine Maxwell was also at this rather notable event. After her father’s mysterious death and alleged murder on the same yacht that bears her name in 1991, she quickly packed her bags and moved to New York City. There, she soon made the acquaintance of Jeffrey Epstein and, a few years later, developed close ties to the Clinton family, which will be discussed in the next installment of this series.

Jeffrey Epstein and the new “Promis”

After it was revealed that Epstein had evaded stricter sentencing in 2008 due to his links to “intelligence,” it was the Mossad ties of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father that have led many to speculate that Epstein’s sexual blackmail operation was sharing incriminating information with the Mossad. Former CBS executive producer and current journalist for the media outlet Narativ, Zev Shalev, has since claimed that he independently confirmed that Epstein was tied directly to the Mossad.

Donald and Melania Trump with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida in 2000. Photo | Davidoff Studios

Epstein was a long-time friend of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has long-standing and deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community. Their decades-long friendship has been the source of recent political attacks targeting Barak, who is running in the Israeli elections against current Prime Minister Netanyahu later this year.

Barak is also close to Epstein’s chief patron and Mega Group member Leslie Wexner, whose Wexner Foundation gave Barak $2 million in 2004 for a still unspecified research program. According to Barak, he was first introduced to Epstein by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who eulogized Robert Maxwell at his funeral and had decades-long ties with the Bronfman family going back to the early 1950s. Peres was also a frequent participant in programs funded by Leslie Wexner in Israel and worked closely with the Mossad for decades.

In 2015, a few years after Epstein’s release from prison following his conviction for soliciting sex from a minor in 2008, Barak formed a company with Epstein with the chief purpose of investing in an Israeli start-up then known as Reporty. That company, now called Carbyne, sells its signature software to 911 call centers and emergency service providers and is also available to consumers as an app that provides emergency services with access to a caller’s camera and location and also runs any caller’s identity through any linked government database. It has specifically been marketed by the company itself and the Israeli press as a solution to mass shootings in the United States and is already being used by at least two U.S. counties.

Israeli media reported that Epstein and Barak were among the company’s largest investors. Barak poured millions into the company and it was recently revealed by Haaretz that a significant amount of Barak’s total investments in Carbyne was funded by Epstein, making him a “de facto partner” in the company. Barak is now Carbyne’s chairman.

The company’s executive team are all former members of different branches of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, that is often likened to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem, also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. Leshem now works for a subsidiary of Erik Prince’s company Frontier Services Group, according to the independent media outlet Narativ.

The company also includes several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — an investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board, alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.

Narativ, which wrote the first expose on Carbyne after Epstein’s arrest, noted that the Chinese government uses a smartphone app very similar to Carbyne as part of its mass surveillance apparatus, even though the original purpose of the app was for improved emergency reporting. According to Narativ, the Chinese Carbyne-equivalent “monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations, power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”

Given the history of Robert Maxwell — the father of Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and young-girl-procuring madam, Ghislaine Maxwell — in promoting the sale of Carbyne’s modified Promis software, which was also marketed as a tool to improve government efficacy but was actually a tool of mass surveillance for the benefit of Israeli intelligence, the overlap between Carbyne and Promis is troubling and warrants further investigation.

It is also worth noting that Unit 8200-connected tech start-ups are being widely integrated into U.S. companies and have developed close ties to the U.S. military-industrial complex, with Carbyne being just one example of that trend.

As MintPress previously reported, Unit 8200-linked outfits like Team8 have recently hired former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers as a senior advisor and gained prominent Silicon Valley figures, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as key investors. Many American technology companies, from Intel to Google to Microsoft, have merged with several Unit 8200-connected start-ups in recent years and have been moving many key jobs and operations to Israel with backing from key Republican donors like Paul Singer. Many of those same companies, particularly Google and Microsoft, are also major U.S. government contractors.

Who was Epstein really working for?

Even though Jeffrey Epstein appears to have had ties to the Mossad, this series has revealed that the networks to which Epstein was connected were not Mossad-exclusive, as many of the individuals close to Epstein — Lesie Wexner, for instance — were part of a mob-connected class of oligarchs with deep ties to both the U.S. and Israel. As was discussed in Part I of this series, the sharing of “intelligence” (i.e., blackmail) between intelligence agencies and the same organized crime network connected to the Mega Group goes back decades. With Leslie Wexner of the Mega Group as Epstein’s chief patron, as opposed to a financier with direct ties to the Mossad, a similar relationship is more than likely in the case of the sexual blackmail operation that Epstein ran.

Given that intelligence agencies in both the U.S. and elsewhere often conduct covert operations for the benefit of oligarchs and large corporations as opposed to “national security interest,” Epstein’s ties to the Mega Group suggest that this group holds a unique status and influence in both the governments of the U.S. and of Israel, as well as in other countries (e.g., Russia) that were not explored in this report. This is by virtue of their role as key political donors in both countries, as well as the fact that several of them own powerful companies or financial institutions in both countries. Indeed, many members of the Mega Group have deep ties to Israel’s political class, including to Netanyahu and Ehud Barak as well as to now-deceased figures like Shimon Peres, and to members of the American political class.

Ultimately, the picture painted by the evidence is not a direct tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.

Though this series has so far focused on the ties of this network to main Republican Party affiliates, the next and final installment will reveal the ties developed between this web and the Clintons. As will be revealed, despite the Clintons’ willingness to embrace corrupt dealings during the span of their political careers, their mostly friendly relationship with this network still saw them use the power of sexual blackmail to obtain certain policy decisions that were favorable to their personal and financial interests but not to the Clintons’ political reputation or agendas.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 8 Comments

Israel’s War on Innocence: Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Courts

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | August 7, 2019

On July 29, 4-year-old Muhammad Rabi’ Elayyan was reportedly summoned for interrogation by the Israeli police in occupied Jerusalem. The news, originally reported by the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, was later denied by the Israeli police, more than likely in an attempt to lessen the impact of the PR disaster that followed.

The Israelis are not denying the story in its entirety, but are rather arguing that it was not the boy, Muhammad, who was summoned, but his father. It was Rabi’ Elayyan, they claim, who was called into the Israeli police station in Salah Eddin Street in Jerusalem to be questioned regarding his son’s actions.

The child was accused of hurling a stone at Israeli occupation soldiers in the Issawiyeh neighborhood, which is a constant target for Israeli violence. The neighborhood has also been the tragic location of house demolitions under the pretext that Palestinians there are building without permits. Of course, the vast majority of Palestinian applications for such permits to build in Issawiyeh, or anywhere else in Jerusalem, are denied routinely, while Jewish settlers are allowed to build on stolen Palestinian land unhindered.

As such, Issawiyeh is no stranger to the ridiculous and unlawful behavior of the Israeli army. On July 6, for example, a mother from the beleaguered neighborhood was arrested in order to put pressure on her teenage son, Mahmoud Ebeid, to turn himself in. The mother “was taken by Israeli police as a bargaining chip,” Mondoweiss reported, quoting the Jerusalem-based Wadi Hileh Information Centre.

The Israeli authorities are justified in feeling embarrassed by the whole episode concerning the 4-year-old boy, thus the attempt to poke holes in the story. The fact is, though, that WAFA’s correspondent in Jerusalem had, indeed, verified that the warrant was in Muhammad’s, not Rabi’s, name.

While some news sources bought into the Israeli propaganda and readily conveyed the cries of “fake news”, one must bear in mind that this was hardly a one-off incident. For Palestinians, such news about the detention, beating, and killing of their children has been one of the most consistent features of the Israeli occupation since 1967.

Just one day after Muhammad was summoned, the Israeli authorities also interrogated the father of a 6-year-old child, Qais Firas Obaid, from the same neighborhood of Issawiyeh. This particular boy was accused of throwing a juice carton at Israeli soldiers.

“According to local sources in Issawiyeh the [Israeli] military sent Qais’s family an official summons to come to the interrogation center in Jerusalem on Wednesday [July 31] at 8 am,” reported the International Middle East Media Centre (IMEMC). In one photo, the little boy is holding the Israeli military order written in Hebrew up to the camera.

The stories of Muhammad and Qais are the norm, not the exception. According to the prisoners’ advocacy group, Addameer, there are currently 250 Palestinian children being held in Israel’s prisons. Approximately 700 Palestinian children are taken through the Israeli military court system every single year.

“The most common charge levied against children is throwing stones,” reports Addameer, “a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison.”

That is why Israel has every right to be embarrassed. Since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, some 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained and interrogated by the Israeli army.

Moreover, it is not only children and their families who are targeted by the Israeli military but also those who advocate on their behalf. Just last week, on July 30, Palestinian lawyer Tariq Barghouth was sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Israeli military court for “firing at Israeli buses and at security forces on a number of occasions.”

As unlikely as the accusation of a well-known lawyer firing at “buses” may sound, it is important to note that Barghouth is well-regarded for his defense of Palestinian children in court. He has also been a headache for the Israeli military court system for his strong defense of Ahmad Manasra.

The then 13-year-old boy was tried and indicted in Israeli military court for allegedly stabbing and wounding two Israelis near the illegal Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in Occupied Jerusalem in 2015. Manasra’s cousin, Hassan, 15, was killed on the spot, while the wounded Ahmad was tried in court as an adult. It was Barghouth who challenged and denounced the Israeli court for the harsh interrogation and for secretly filming the wounded child as he was tied to his hospital bed.

On August 2, 2016, Israel passed a law that allows the authorities to “imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter even if he or she is under the age of 14.” The law was crafted conveniently to deal with cases like that of Ahmad Manasra, who was sentenced on November 7, the same year, three months after the law was approved, to 12 years in prison.

Manasra’s case, the leaked videos of his abuse by Israeli interrogators and his harsh sentence placed more international focus on the plight of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system. “Israeli interrogators are seen relying on verbal abuse, intimidation and threats to apparently inflict mental suffering for the purpose of obtaining a confession,” attorney and international advocacy officer at Defence for Children — Palestine, Brad Parker, said at the time.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel has been a signatory since 1991, “prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Yet, explains Parker, “Ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli military and police is widespread and systematic.”

So systematic, in fact, that videos and reports of arresting very young Palestinian children are almost a staple on social media platforms concerned with Palestine and Palestinian rights.

The sad reality is that Muhammad Elayyan, 4, and Qais Obaid, 6, and many children like them, have become a target of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This horrendous reality must not be tolerated by the international community.

Israeli crimes against Palestinian children must be confronted effectively for the simple reason that Israel, its inhumane laws and iniquitous military courts must not be allowed to continue their uncontested brutalization of those who are, at the end of the day, children. Israel’s war on their innocence must be stopped.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London).

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Did Bill Barr Call His Shot? Unanswered Questions about FBI’s Foreknowledge of the El Paso Shooting

William Barr’s warning that a “major incident” could occur “at any time” and “galvanize public opinion” around the unpopular encryption back-door policy he has been seeking seems to have come true in the weeks since the attorney general made those statements.

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | August 7, 2019

As a series of recent mass shootings have brought renewed demands for the U.S. government to do something to address the spike in “lone wolf” violence, the Trump administration’s decision to blame internet privacy, controversial websites like 8chan, and social media for the shootings has raised eyebrows from across the political spectrum, particularly in light of claims that Trump’s recent rhetoric about immigrants may have incited some of the shooters.

During a press conference on Monday, Trump blamed the internet for the three most recent mass shooting events:

We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start…. The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored, and they will not be ignored… We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion.”

Yet, not long before the recent spate of mass shootings began, U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave a speech on July 23 in which he spoke of the need for all consumer electronic devices and encrypted software to have a backdoor for the government to bypass encryption, essentially calling for many of the same measures that Trump has proposed following the recent shootings.

Notably, Barr concluded his speech by stating that he anticipated “a major incident may well occur at any time that will galvanize public opinion on these issues.” In other words, just a few days prior to the recent spate of mass shootings, William Barr stated that he anticipated a public safety crisis that “may well occur at any time” and would reduce public resistance to the further erosion of civil liberties that he was advocating for in his speech.

Furthermore, the FBI, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and reports directly to William Barr, has now stated that it was aware of the El Paso shooter’s plan to murder civilians via a post made on 8chan at least two hours before the shooting took place. 8chan — a controversial website that the FBI is known to have used to incite violence as part of its controversial terrorist entrapment strategy — has since been banned in the shooting’s aftermath. In addition, less than two months ago, the FBI obtained a warrant for 8chan’s host — Ch.net — in which the Bureau demanded access to the entire contents of the accounts that were of interest in that specific investigation, suggesting that the FBI had increased access to information of hundreds of 8chan accounts in the lead-up to the recent shootings.

The overlap between Barr’s recent speech and Trump’s proposed solution to the massacres, as well as the FBI’s unusual recent relationship with 8chan, has led some to suggest that the Trump administration is taking advantage of the tragedy at El Paso and of other recent mass shootings to impose unpopular restrictions on civil liberties and increase the mass surveillance of innocent Americans.

An uncanny prediction

On Tuesday, July 23, Attorney General William Barr gave the keynote address at the 2019 International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) at Fordham University. The focus of Barr’s speech was the need for consumer electronic products and applications that use encryption to offer a “backdoor” for the government, specifically law enforcement, to obtain access to encrypted communications as a matter of public safety.

Early in his speech, Barr stated:

Service providers, device manufacturers and application developers are developing and deploying encryption that can only be decrypted by the end user or customer, and they are refusing to provide technology that allows for lawful access by law enforcement agencies in appropriate circumstances….

While encryption protects against cyberattacks, deploying it in warrant-proof form jeopardizes public safety more generally. The net effect is to reduce the overall security of society.”

Barr went onto say that “warrant-proof encryption is also seriously impairing our ability to monitor and combat domestic and foreign terrorists.” Barr stated that “smaller terrorist groups and ‘lone wolf’ actors” — such as those involved in the series of mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio that would occur in the weeks after his speech — “have turned increasingly to encryption.” Barr later notes that he is specifically referencing encryption used by “consumer products and services such as messaging, smart phones, email, and voice and data applications.”

Barr then laid out his vision of what the solution to this challenge posed by “warrant-proof encryption” would look like:

We believe that when technology providers deploy encryption in their products, services, and platforms they need to maintain an appropriate mechanism for lawful access. This means a way for government entities, when they have appropriate legal authority, to access data securely, promptly, and in an intelligible format, whether it is stored on a device or in transmission.

We do not seek to prescribe any particular solution. Our private-sector technology providers have immensely talented engineers who have built the very products and services that we are talking about. They are in the best position to determine what methods of lawful access work best for their technology.”

After laying out his vision, Barr stated that, while he would like to give private companies time to willingly cooperate and comply with his suggested solution to “warrant-proof encryption,” “the time to achieve that [government back-doors into electronic consumer apps and products] may be limited.”

To overcome the resistance by some private companies — who do not want to renege on their right to privacy by giving the government back-door access to their devices — and American consumers, Barr tellingly anticipates that a “major incident” will soon take place that will mold public opinion in favor of his proposed solution.

Barr concluded his speech by stating:

I think it is prudent to anticipate that a major incident may well occur at any time that will galvanize public opinion on these issues.

As this debate has dragged on, and deployment of warrant-proof encryption has accelerated, our ability to protect the public from criminal threats is rapidly deteriorating. The status quo is exceptionally dangerous, unacceptable, and only getting worse.

The rest of the world has woken up to this threat. It is time for the United States to stop debating whether to address it, and start talking about how to address it.” (emphases added)

On Thursday, July 25, the last day of the ICCS conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray also echoed Barr’s call for government back-doors into encrypted software and apps, stating in his speech:

Cybersecurity is a central part of the FBI’s mission. But as the attorney general discussed earlier this week, our request for lawful access cannot be considered in a vacuum. It’s got to be viewed more broadly, taking into account the American public’s interest in the security and safety of our society, and our way of life. That’s important because this is an issue that’s getting worse and worse all the time.

There’s one thing I know for sure: It cannot be a sustainable end state for us to be creating an unfettered space that’s beyond lawful access for terrorists, hackers and child predators to hide. But that’s the path we’re on now, if we don’t come together to solve this problem.”

A new phase of an old campaign

The speeches given by Barr and Wray are the most recent iterations of the Department of Justice’s years-long effort to evade and weaken the encryption used by certain electronic products and applications, particularly encrypted messaging apps. Indeed, the DOJ was particularly active in late 2017 in pushing for back-doors into encrypted software, citing the encrypted devices of past perpetrators of mass shootings as proving the need for federal law enforcement to easily and quickly bypass encryption in criminal investigations.

However, Barr’s and Wray’s speeches mark a new phase of this government campaign targeting encryption, a campaign that has picked up in the past two weeks just as a series of mass shootings in the United States have led to widespread calls for the government to do something to prevent further massacres.

At a Monday press conference, President Donald Trump gave his official response to the most recent shootings in Ohio and Texas, tragedies that he largely blamed on the internet and its “dark recesses” that are inaccessible to the government. “We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” Trump stated, before adding: “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”

“The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored,” the president emphasized.

One of the main solutions Trump offered to what he alleged caused the recent shootings was to mandate the DOJ “to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.” Some interpreted this statement as suggesting the more widespread implementation of “pre-crime” software, such as Palantir, which was co-founded by billionaire Trump backer Peter Thiel, who is also on Facebook’s board.

Conveniently for William Barr, Facebook announced in May that the company is already developing just the “backdoor” that the attorney general has sought. This new initiative would implement AI-powered surveillance measures onto consumer devices, which would bypass end-to-end encryption on both the recently encrypted Facebook Messenger and the popular encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in 2014. Though the measure was announced in May, it has received media attention only in the last week, following Barr’s speech at the 2019 ICCS.

Following Trump’s proposal for social media and the Barr-led DOJ to work together to monitor encrypted messages, it seems that Facebook will be one of the first major tech companies to offer its ready-made solution to the U.S. government. It is also worth considering the possibility that Barr may use the threat of his Silicon Valley antitrust probe to potentially strong-arm tech companies that would otherwise be unwilling to create a government back-door in their software or products. That probe was announced the same day that Barr spoke about anti-encryption measures at the 2019 ICCS.

In addition, between Barr’s July 23 speech and Trump’s August 5 press conference, there has been a concerted push from not only the DOJ but also the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, of which the U.S. is part, to weaken encryption or give governments access to encrypted applications.

On the heels of the 2019 ICCS, at which Barr and Wray spoke, there was a related cyber security summit in London — called the Five Country Ministerial — where “senior ministers from the U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States … reaffirmed their commitment to work together with industry to tackle a range of security threats.”

According to the U.K. government’s press release on the summit, which took place from July 29 to 30, the ministers in attendance “stressed that law enforcement agencies’ efforts to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes would be hampered if the industry carries out plans to implement end-to-end encryption, without the necessary safeguards.” William Barr attended that summit, representing the U.S., and echoed his speech given a week prior, stating:

We must ensure that we do not stand by as advances in technology create spaces where criminal activity of the most heinous kind can go undetected and unpunished.”

Notably, Australia last year implemented a law similar to that which Barr is seeking to enact in the United States. It has since been lampooned by expert cryptographers for its ineffectiveness and has caused damage to Australia’s tech industry. According to the Guardian, Microsoft revealed in March that companies and governments it works with say they “are no longer comfortable about storing their data in Australia as a result of the encryption legislation.” Perhaps predictably, what has happened since Australia’s enactment of this controversial encryption legislation is the Australian government’s use of its new “back-doors” to widely surveil its civilians without a warrant.

Barr’s Orwellian bent

Barr’s outsized involvement in this recent push for a government back-door into all encryption apps is notable given his past. For instance, prior to becoming attorney general under Trump, Barr worked at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, a firm that “represent[s] clients on matters relating to data and network security.” Kirkland & Ellis, in describing its own services, notes:

These matters are increasingly important to national security and international trade concerns such as government surveillance issues, state-sponsored cyber-attacks and espionage, and legal limitations on cross-border data transfers. The Firm represents clients in navigating these legal matters, including with respect to investigating security incidents/breaches and handling resulting litigation or government relations aspects of such incidents.”

Furthermore, Barr’s previous stint as attorney general, during the administration of George H.W. Bush, saw him push for increasing mass surveillance of innocent Americans. According to USA Today, in 1992, while serving as Attorney General under Bush Sr., Barr “launched a vast surveillance program that gathered records of innocent Americans’ international phone calls without first conducting a review of whether it was legal.”  The program “ultimately gathered billions of records of nearly all phone calls from the United States to 116 countries, with little oversight from Congress or the courts” and also “provided a blueprint for far broader phone-data surveillance the government launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” The program was partially carried out by the then-head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Barr’s history of pushing for reducing privacy for citizens is troubling considering that, earlier in his career, he pushed for increased government secrecy while he was employed by the CIA in the late 1970s. For instance, while working at the CIA’s Office of Legislative Council, Barr attempted to circumvent the moratorium placed on the CIA that prevented it from destroying records and also stonewalled the Church Committee’s investigation into CIA abuses. Thus, Barr’s push for reduced privacy for citizens but increased privacy for the government bodes poorly for those who see government transparency and citizen privacy as important to keeping government overreach in check.

FBI foreknowledge

In the hours before the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas — and less than two weeks after Barr warned of an imminent “major incident” that would “galvanize public opinion” in favor of ending encryption free from a government back-door — the FBI was made aware of a manifesto published on the controversial website 8chan that is alleged to have been authored by the shooter, Patrick Crusius.

According to NBC News, the FBI was aware of the document prior to the shooting, but was unable to act quickly enough to prevent the attack. There have, however, been conflicting reports about exactly how long the FBI was aware of the alleged manifesto prior to the shooting.

For instance, soon after the shooting, CNN stated that three different sources had told the outlet that the manifesto had been “posted days before the shootings.” However, the FBI later stated less than a half hour before the shooting, while separate law enforcement sources told reporters that it was actually two hours before the shooting.

There is also a discrepancy regarding whether the manifesto was originally posted on 8chan and whether the shooter himself even posted it. Jim Watkins, who owns the 8chan message boards and has alerted federal authorities previously when past shooting manifestos were published at the site, stated:

First of all, the El Paso shooter posted on Instagram, not 8chan… Later, someone uploaded the manifesto. However, that manifesto was not uploaded by the Walmart shooter. I don’t know if he wrote it or not, but it was not uploaded by the murderer; that is clear.”

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said that it had disabled an Instagram account that belonged to Crusius and also noted that that account had been inactive for over a year.

In the past, 8chan administrators had deleted manifestos minutes after they were posted and warned federal authorities that the documents had been published. In the case of the El Paso shooting, Watkins claimed that the site had informed federal authorities as soon as they were aware that the manifesto had been uploaded to its page.

The facts that the FBI knew in advance of the manifesto, that the manifesto may not have been uploaded by the shooter, and that the FBI was quick to link that document to the shooting event soon after it took place have led to speculation about how the FBI was able to make that connection so quickly. For instance, lawyer Robert Barnes stated the following on Twitter:

How did [the] FBI identify the shooter before he began his attack from a post on an anonymous chat board? Usually, this means the shooter tipped them off either directly or indirectly (informant). Misuse of informants (including encouraging violence) is an underexplored problem.”

In addition, journalist Rachel Blevins posed a similar question on social media following the revelations, writing:

It took just hours for the FBI to both identify the suspect in the El Paso shooting and connect him to a manifesto posted on 8chan, which raises the question… was the suspect included in the FBI’s surveillance, and were their agents in contact with him before the shooting?”

This possibility is worth considering, given the well-documented history of the FBI’s policy of manufacturing domestic terror plots within the United States, most of which are ultimately foiled at the last minute by the Bureau. In many of those cases, many alleged terrorists would not have planned or attempted those attacks without goading and support from the FBI, leading critics to accuse the FBI of deliberately using entrapment. For instance, a 2014 study by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute found that “many of these people [in the cases examined in the study] would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts,” according to the study’s co-author Andrea Prasow.

There are several instances where the FBI sought out mentally handicapped and unstable individuals with no resources of their own, giving them incentives, fake weapons and even driving them to the scene of the planned fake terror attack. Two high-profile domestic terror cases have also had hints of FBI involvement — including the Pulse nightclub shooting, where the shooter’s father was later revealed to be a FBI informant and the FBI had attempted to goad the Pulse shooter into committing a terror attack years prior to the Pulse shooting. In addition, the family of the Boston Marathon bombers claimed that the FBI regularly visited their family home and had cultivated a close relationship with one of the bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prior to the bombing.

Since late 2016, the FBI’s controversial policy of inducting individuals to commit acts of terror in the United States has expanded after a federal appeals court ruling in December of that year said that federal agents were allowed to target a person’s religious affiliation in order to “probe the attitudes” of an individual who may want to “do something to America” by entrapping them in fake terror act schemes. The ruling also permitted federal agents to create false friendships, referred to in the ruling as the “illusory cultivation of emotional intimacy,” as a means of manipulating individuals to commit acts of terrorism — as well as providing these unstable individuals with money, vehicles, businesses and even vacations to get them to agree to participate in fake attacks.

As a result of this troubling trend, and given the FBI’s foreknowledge of the manifesto and its ease in connecting that document to the shooter, it becomes important to ask whether the FBI had more foreknowledge of the situation than it has publicly let on.

Though history indicates that FBI foreknowledge of the shooter is definitely plausible, 8chan has been a recent focus of the FBI in recent months. For instance, after the alleged manifesto of the shooter responsible for the massacre at the Poway Synagogue earlier this year was published on 8chan, the FBI issued a warrant for hundreds of 8chan user accounts that had commented on the Poway Synagogue shooter’s thread, including both users that supported his statement of intent and those who were appalled by it.

According to the Bureau’s application for a search warrant, the FBI was seeking the “IP address and metadata information about [Poway shooter John] Earnest’s original posting and the postings of all of the individuals who responded to the subject posting and/or commented about it.” The FBI further instructed Ch.net, which hosts 8chan, “to make a digital copy of the entire contents of the accounts subject to seizure.”

It goes without saying that with the information on hundreds of 8chan users, the FBI would have had access to potential future informants and potential targets to be “groomed” by the FBI for a future domestic terrorism entrapment case. This is especially likely given that the FBI’s reasoning for obtaining this large amount of information in the warrant was to identify “individuals who are inspired by the subject posting [i.e., the Poway shooter manifesto].” One 8chan user who was contacted by the FBI after this search warrant and filmed the encounter, was asked by federal agents to help them with information-gathering on other 8chan users.

This possibility is further supported by the fact that the FBI agent who filed the search warrant application, FBI Special Agent Michael Rod, revealed that he had been active on 8chan and (perhaps inadvertently) revealed his user name on 8chan to be user “8f4812.” An archive of the Poway shooter’s 8chan thread, available here, reveals that Rod stated in that 8chan thread that Russia was to blame for the Poway shooting and Rod also claimed that he knew of the Poway shooting 15 minutes before it happened but was unable to warn the authorities because he “was shit posting and got tied up.”

In the wake of the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, 8chan was taken offline after internet infrastructure company Cloudflare declined to continue supporting the website.

A tragedy foretold and exploited

William Barr’s warning that a “major incident” could occur “at any time” and “galvanize public opinion” around the unpopular encryption back-door policy he has been seeking seems to have come true in the weeks since the attorney general made those statements. Given Barr’s influence over the FBI, which operates under his jurisdiction, it is important to scrutinize the evidence that the FBI had apparent foreknowledge of at least one of these recent shootings, and consider that the Bureau may have failed to act to prevent the tragedy, allowing Barr’s prediction just weeks earlier to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Trump’s proposed solution to the recent spate of mass shootings is focused on giving Barr a mandate to work with social media and tech companies to prevent another mass shooting before it occurs. It seems evident that this solution is set to involve surveilling encrypted communications to ostensibly prevent another shooting while also providing Barr, and the DOJ at large, the back-door into encrypted apps and consumer products that they have long sought but have been unable to sell to either the public or those same tech companies.

Now, a public safety crisis has emerged in the wake of Barr’s recent speech, tipping the scales — as Barr had predicted — so the public would favor further reductions to their civil liberties and right to privacy so that the federal government could provide increased public safety through increased surveillance. Yet, taking this alongside the well-documented fact that the FBI regularly manufactures domestic terror plots, it is worth asking whether some of these recent shootings were allowed to happen and whether public officials like William Barr are manipulating the public’s reaction to these tragedies to advance their own political agendas and further the build-up of state power.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Google, Groupthink & the Media

The media fosters intellectual conformity. Is Google taking the same path?

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | August 7, 2019

Two days ago I wrote about Google Camp, a secretive, high-security, annual extravaganza involving the hyper wealthy and the world famous. This year’s theme was climate change. Ironic, given that participants arrived aboard more than 100 private airplanes.

While the UK press judged this event to be newsworthy, most of the US and Canadian media said not one word about it. Making climate warriors look bad isn’t what North American journalists do.

But there are other reasons it should have been reported on aggressively. Google is the kind of multinational tech giant that may be getting too big and too powerful for society’s good. It wields enormous influence, yet is subject to few checks and balances.

There are many ways in which companies such as Google can covertly influence elections, undermining democracy itself (see here and here). From this perspective, sustained scrutiny of Google may be even more important than scrutiny of a particular government or a particular political leader. Presidents come and go. Google remains, accreting and accumulating.

What is the purpose, one wonders, of throwing a no-expense-spared party for the massively privileged each year? What does Google get out of it? What does it expect in return?

It seems to me this is a soft way of encouraging conformity of opinion amongst film stars, musicians, and athletes who all have their own Twitter and Instagram accounts. Not sure climate change is a big deal? For heaven’s sake, don’t say so publicly. You wouldn’t want to get on Google’s ‘naughty’ list and never be invited back.

But conformity of opinion is not a social good. If one of the world’s most powerful corporations is nurturing groupthink, what are the consequences for the larger community?

This isn’t a new concern. Back in 1978, when future Google founders Sergely Brin and Larry Page were cute five-year-olds, legendary Soviet human rights activist Alexandr Solzhenitsyn delivered a commencement address at Harvard.

By then he’d been in the West long enough to compare and contrast with the totalitarian East Bloc. In his view, Western journalists were incredibly influential. Yet rather than using their freedom to ignite wide-ranging debate, their everyday choices produced narrow conformity. Strangely, people who should have been endlessly curious about the world, chose not to be:

the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible?

… someone coming from the East…gradually discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole. It is a fashion; there are generally accepted patterns of judgment…the sum effect being not competition but unification.

… Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day.

… There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. [bold added]

The world needs fearless, original thinkers – not conformist androids singing from the same chapter of the same hymn book.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 9 Comments

Food Shipment Destined For Venezuela Seized Due to US Blockade

teleSUR | August 7, 2019

Venezuela’s Vicepresident Delcy Rodriguez denounced Wednesday that a ship containing 25 thousand tonnes of Soya has been seized in the Panama Canal due to the U.S. blockade while calling on the United Nations to take action against the “serious aggression” that impede Venezuela “right to food”.

“Venezuela denounces before the world that a boat that holds 25 thousand tons of Soya, for food production in our country, has been seized in the Panama Canal, due to the criminal blockade imposed by Donald Trump,” the vice president said in a tweet.

“Venezuela calls on the UN to stop this serious aggression by Donald Trump’s govt against our country, which constitutes a massive violation of the human rights of the entire Venezuelan people, by attempting to impede their right to food.”

In a subsequent tweet, the Venezuelan senior official explained that the owner of the vessel carrying the merchandise of food was informed by the insurance company that it was prevented from moving that cargo to Venezuela.

The shipment seizure comes just days after Trump signed an executive order Monday that imposes a near-total blockade on government assets in that country, which includes an embargo against food suppliers, among other basic inputs. This is the first time in 30 years that Washington has taken such an action against a sovereign country.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Iran’s electrification rate at %99.9, villages connected at rapid pace: Official

Press TV – August 7, 2019

Iran is nearing a full electrification rate as people are gaining access to power in villages and remote areas on a rapid pace, says a government official.

The top contractor for rural electrification in Iran’s energy ministry said on Wednesday that only 80,000 people from Iran’s current population of over 83 million had no access to electricity, adding that plans were in pace to complete the coverage for all villages across the country in the upcoming years.

Ali Chehel Amirani said Iran is currently enjoying an electrification rate of more than 99.9 percent, adding that some 4.5 million families in 57,300 villages had full access to electricity.

The official said nearly 250,000 kilometers of power lines had been installed across Iran for the sole purpose of rural electrification, adding that more than a third of the grid’s capacity in the country was dedicated to feeding power to villages.

Chehel Amirani said the pace of the electrification of villages in Iran had slowed down over the past years mainly because the government was concerned about the stability of the network in rural areas where some installations need urgent maintenance after some 25 years of providing service.

He said, however, that nearly 600 more villages will be electrified in two years time when the current administrative government leaves office.

Iran has more than 62,000 villages, according to the last census carried out by the government in 2016, with around a third of them home to less than 50 residents.

The census shows that a total of 21 million people, around 26 percent of Iran’s population, live in rural areas across the country.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

Sky News laments erosion of ‘rules-based international order’ but does such a thing really exist?

By Danielle Ryan | RT | August 7, 2019

The “rules-based international system” is under increasing threat, with laws flouted and “norms” violated at every turn by disobedient members of the world community, warns a preachy Sky News op-ed.

The dire warning, authored by Sky’s foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes, defines this rules-based order as the “network of accords and institutions” which make up the“framework that helps to ensure security, rights, freedoms and justice” around the world.

Haynes hails the United Nations, the NATO alliance and various international treaties as examples within that framework, but, curiously, the central bogeymen of the piece allegedly eroding this so-called system are all Western adversaries.

Any truly honest assessment of the world today would acknowledge that this “rules-based international system” of which Haynes speaks is a myth; if it ever did exist, it has been battered ceaselessly by Western powers. The rules-based order is less a functioning system offering “rights, freedoms and justice” and more a tired catchphrase used by Western officials and their media partners to scold countries that refuse to obey their commands. In other words, it exists only in theory, rarely in practice.

Russia is accused by Haynes of having repeatedly attacked “the global rulebook of normal behaviour,” but what is normal behaviour? If we are to believe that Western actions are “normal,” then normal has taken an increasingly macabre turn.

Was the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan — a country still occupied 18 years later —  a win for the rules-based system? If there were any lingering notions about a functioning international order after that, the 2003 invasion of Iraq should surely have put an end to them; oddly, it gets no mention in the article.

Britain’s misdeeds — including its enthusiastic support for that war — are also conspicuously absent from the opus. Speaking of Britain, one wonders do Yemenis, slaughtered and starved by Saudi Arabia, with generous help from London in the form of billions of pounds worth of arms, feel they are the lucky beneficiaries of this rules-based order?

Maybe Libyans, having had their once stable and prosperous country ravaged by NATO’s 2011 “humanitarian intervention” feel the same? The military bloc’s infamous “humanitarianism” was also on display during its earlier bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Are the “rights, freedom and justice” touted by Haynes as by-products of this so-called system being offered to Palestinians? When Israel demolishes their homes and schools, tramples over their rights, and uses overwhelming military force to stamp out resistance — while the West turns a blind eye — is it adhering to this normal rules-based behaviour?

This phrase “normal behavior” is nothing more than a Washington talking point. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran last year to “act like a normal country, or see its economy crumble.”

Unfortunately, it has indeed become ‘normal’ for the US to crush under its boot any country which dares to object to its rule, through the use of deadly sanctions and often brute military force.

The same warnings were recently issued to Venezuela, which is now under a total economic blockade and where experts have assessed that deadly sanctions have led directly to the premature deaths of 40,000 people.

The other thing about the “global rulebook” is that the rules are constantly changing to suit the whims of Western powers. When asked why Washington’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights was good, but Crimea’s decision to rejoin Russia was bad, Pompeo referred senators to a particular “international law doctrine” which does not exist.

Haynes also deplores China’s erosion of freedoms for the people of Hong Kong and mentions ongoing pro-democracy protests in the region as another “symptom” of the unraveling of the rules-based system. Meanwhile, in her own country, one of, if not the most consequential journalist of modern times sits behind bars for the crime of doing real journalism and upsetting the global elites’ applecart.

Ultimately, the screed adds little of value to any discussion about international affairs. Yet, it is still valuable in the sense that it is a great demonstration of the delusion, hypocrisy, and total lack of self-awareness displayed by many Western journalists when attempting to make sense of the world around them.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Will Mercenaries Fight America’s Wars?

By Philip Giraldi | American Free Press | August 6, 2019

President Donald Trump’s pre-election pledge to end America’s useless wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan just might turn out to be somewhat less than what was promised if some political allies of the president have their way. For the past year there have been rumors circulating in Washington about the possibility of using mercenaries rather than American soldiers to keep the lid on a volatile Afghanistan and to arrange for regime change in countries like Venezuela.

It perhaps should surprise no one that a country dedicated to “free markets” should at least somewhat embrace the idea of using mercenaries to fight its wars. The concept is already embedded in the federal government, increasingly so since 9/11. A majority of the workers in the intelligence community as well as in the civilian ranks of the Pentagon are already paid contractors who work for the “Beltway bandit” firms that specialize in national security. A substantial number of those hires are armed paramilitaries operating in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Mideast and Africa.

The logic for going with contractors rather than employees has been that budgets go up and down, so it is the smart thing to have a lot of people working for you who are on one-year contracts and can be let go if the money to pay them is not authorized. The downside is that the average federal employee costs roughly $125,000 per year in pay and benefits. A contractor costs three times as much, which means that the taxpayer pays the piper for something that is a convenience for the government.

The most prominent advocate for mercenary armies is Erik Prince, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater. Blackwater was a major private military contractor in Iraq, where it provided security for State Department operations and facilities. Notoriously, in 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad. One of Prince’s employees was eventually convicted of murder and three others have been convicted of manslaughter. Prince subsequently renamed the Blackwater security company and then sold it in 2010.

Prince, the scion of a wealthy Midwestern family that made its money selling auto parts, is himself a former Navy SEAL. Many of his Blackwater employees were drawn from the special operations community. His sister is Betsy DeVos, the conservative secretary of education, which certainly helps make sure that his views will be conveyed to the White House.

Two years ago, Prince was lobbying heavily in Washington in support of his plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan. He claimed that mercenaries operating in the special ops mode and not requiring a huge logistical tail could be more cost and manpower effective at fighting the similarly armed Taliban. But Prince did not see that as their primary mission, which would be training Afghan national forces while at the same time running the key elements in the country’s government that would support the effort, namely the treasury and national security team. In other words, it would be the foreign mercenaries in charge with the Afghan government going along for the ride until the situation would improve. Having the paid soldiers and their administrators in charge would also eliminate the pervasive Afghan government corruption, which has to this point crippled the war and training efforts.

It was a neat and also creative package that would at a stroke end direct U.S. involvement in the Afghan war, in a manner of speaking. It would also be quite lucrative for the company providing the mercenaries and the other support. Empirically speaking, however, it was always a nonstarter. The ability of a group of mercenaries to multitask in a difficult environment like Afghanistan has never been tested at this level, and it is impossible to imagine that the Afghan government would cede its authorities to a band of Americans and Europeans.

More recently, Prince has been supporting something similar, a private mercenary army of a few thousand men that would bring down the government of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicholas Maduro. Having learned from the Afghan experience that it is necessary to come up with the money before coming up with a plan, Prince has been discussing Venezuela with conservative Republican donors as well as with Miami-based Venezuelan millionaires, the so-called “bankers and oligarchs” that ran the country before the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 forced many of them to go into exile. He has been seeking $40 million in seed money for the operation.

In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. He has argued that a dramatic step is necessary to break through the standoff between Guaido and Maduro. Prince’s pitch detailing how he would accomplish a change in government features intelligence operations preceding deployment of those 5,000 mercenaries recruited in Latin America to conduct “combat and stabilization operations.”

The White House is cool to the plan, particularly in the wake of the poor intelligence that led to the badly bungled and embarrassing Venezuelan coup in May. It is currently more inclined to tighten sanctions to create more unrest, particularly as there are already reports of starvation in some parts of the country.

There also has been concern in Washington policy circles that the introduction of foreign soldiers in Venezuela could lead to civil war, something like a replay of what has been experienced in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Libya. But the most interesting aspect of the discussion is the fact that it is taking place at all. The United States of America, hostile to the ability of kings to initiate wars on their own authority, was founded in part in opposition to any permanent standing army beyond what was necessary for self-defense.

Now, the U.S. may be considering major military operations using mercenary armies to deal with undeclared and illegal wars thousands of miles away that do not even threaten the homeland. It is, unfortunately, just one more indication of how the United States has been changed beyond all recognition in the past 20 years.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 3 Comments

Modi Sent A Message To All Of India’s Minorities With His Latest Moves In Kashmir

By Andrew Korybko | Eurasia Future | 2019-08-07

Modi’s unprecedented revocation of Kashmir’s relative “autonomy” is meant to send a message to all of India’s minorities that they too might see what little rights they have left rescinded as well if they dare to resist the central government like the aforementioned region’s Muslims have. India’s international perception managers have spun the false narrative that Kashmir is the only region under New Delhi’s control that enjoys special privileges, but that’s not true at all since the amendments made to Article 371 of the constitution provide similar relative “autonomy” to a handful of others, mostly located in the restless Northeast that’s colloquially known as the “Seven Sisters”. More specifically, Mizoram and Nagaland also have restrictions in place prohibiting the purchase of land by non-residents, but they too could see these supposed “guarantees” taken away at a moment’s notice like what just happened with Kashmir’s if they ever experience a revival of separatist sentiment.

Awareness of these little-known facts by observers from abroad dismantles New Delhi’s narrative that Kashmir’s relative “autonomy” was taken away in order to promote the growth, development, and security of the region since Mizoram and Nagaland especially have been plagued by violence for years already. In fact, India bombed its own people a little over half a century ago for the first time ever when attacking Mizo rebels, and it’s currently in the process of negotiating a secretive peace deal with their Naga counterparts who are demanding their own flag, constitution, and recognition of their irredentist claims in the Northeastern region (the first two of which Kashmir had up until Monday). Not only that, but both quasi-“autonomous” regions are also terribly underdeveloped, with their socio-economic and security situations mirroring Kashmir’s (if not  being worse in some respects) and therefore debunking the state’s claims that these three reasons were why the latter’s rights were suddenly taken away from it.

When comparing Kashmir, Mizoram, and Nagaland, it’s clear that the greatest difference between the first-mentioned and the other two is that this Muslim minority-majority region has most actively resisted the central government, showing that Modi’s latest moves against its people are strictly punitive in nature, especially when considering the implications of allowing non-residents to purchase property there. An Indian RT op-ed contributor was seemingly ecstatic about how “demographically, the idea is to dissolve Kashmiri separatism in a sea of Indian nationalism through the intermixing of populations, blunting the sharp edge of separatism that comes from lack of ethnic heterogeneity in the Kashmir Valley, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim”, even though Pakistani Prime Minister Khan warned the world that this amounts to ethnic cleansing. Put another way, India is unleashing the same “Weapons of Mass Migration” that Ivy League researcher Kelly M. Greenhill wrote about.

Mizoram and Nagaland, however, are spared from being victimized by this demographic variation of Hybrid War  so long as they continue to submit to the central authorities, but even then there’s no assurance that the government will honor the privileges bestowed upon them in the amendments to Article 371 after showing how easily they could remove these similar rights from the Kashmiris. There are more than enough Hindu-extremist settlers in the BJP’s heartland that are eager to colonize what they regard as the “backwards” people of those two Northeastern regions if their relative “autonomy” was rescinded, just like there are many Zionist settlers in “Israel” just waiting for Tel Aviv’s permission to do the same to even more Palestinians in the West Bank, so these smaller targeted populations could be even comparatively easier to ethnically cleanse than the Kashmiris if they dare to step out of line and anger the “Indian Empire” that their representatives agreed to become “protectorates” of.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

Erdogan announces military operation east of Euphrates river to push back Kurds, US urges him to reconsider

Sarah Abed | August 7, 2019

In what would be Turkey’s third cross-border military operation in Syria since the war began, in as many years, Erdogan announced on Sunday that he would be launching a military operation east of the Euphrates river, to push back Kurdish militias on Turkey’s southern border.

Although Erdogan did not set a timeframe, preparations have been underway for well over a month.  Increased deployment of Turkish military forces along with weaponry, and tanks, etc. have been reported by various sources, on the Turkish side of the southern border with Syria.

Preparations are also underway by Kurdish militias, to counter any possible Turkish aggression. Both sides have said that if the other attacks they will be ready to respond.

The same announcement, regarding a military operation east of the Euphrates, was made by Erdogan over nine months ago, but was then called off due to talks with US President Donald Trump who agreed to set up a safe zone on Turkey’s border to appease Erdogan. However, this never came into fruition, and a buffer zone was not created because of a difference of opinion on the depth. Erdogan now feels the US is stalling, and his latest threats seem to indicate that his patience is running thin.

Some believe that the chances of Erdogan carrying out his mission this time, are higher because he has notified Russia and the US, in advance of his plan.

However, if Turkey carries out this third operation, the outcome will most likely not be a swift defeat and take over by Turkish armed forces and their terrorist ally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) like we have seen in the past. The stakes are also much higher due to the presence of US troops, intelligence officers and US personnel stationed in northeastern Syria.

On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that “the U.S. intends to prevent any unilateral invasion by Turkey into northern Syria, saying any such move by the Turks would be unacceptable.” Esper seemed hopeful that negotiations and talks would lead to some sort of agreement but did not disclose what that could be.

Some speculate that specific airstrikes targeting Kurdish militia installations are more likely to occur, than a unilateral land invasion. The demographics are such that all of the various ethnicities whether they be Syrian Muslims, Assyrians, Armenians, Kurds, Arameans, etc. would most likely bond together against any Turkish aggression.

The first cross-border Turkish operation Euphrates Shield in 2017, focused on targeting a “terror corridor” made up of Daesh and Kurdish fighters further east from Afrin along its southern frontier with Syria. After completing that operation, Turkey set up local systems of governance in the swath of land captured, stretching from the area around Azaz — located to the northeast of Afrin — to the Euphrates River and protected by Turkish forces present there.

The second, Operation Olive Branch, which began January 2018 and was completed in two months with Afrin being captured by the Turkish Armed Forces and their ally the Free Syrian Army. They quickly established control over Afrin and all of the villages that had remained under the control of Kurdish YPG (the People’s Protection Unit) north and northwest of the city. Many YPG fighters and their families fled to government-held parts of Aleppo.

In primarily the second operation, YPG fighters felt abandoned and betrayed by the US who stated that they would not get involved and seemingly allowed Turkey to carry out its operations without much objection. There was a noticeable silence from Russian and Syrian forces as well.

In order to understand Turkey’s contentions with the Kurdish militia’s it’s important to clarify the major players. The YPG is a Kurdish-majority militia that is the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish democratic confederalist political party in northeastern Syria. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is an organization based in Turkey and Iraq that has been engaged in armed conflicts with the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkey considers all these Kurdish organizations to be terrorists and has urged the United States for years to sever ties with them and has demanded a buffer zone. Both the United States and Turkey view the PKK as a terrorist organization.

The United States justified its military and economic support for the YPG by claiming they were the most reliable fighters in Syria against Daesh. Kurdish factions have been used throughout history to create chaos in the Middle East.

To disassociate the YPG from the PKK, General Raymond Thomas, the commander of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), revealed — at a Security Forum on July 21, 2017 at the Aspen Institute — that he personally discussed the importance of changing its name with the YPG. As he states in this video, he was impressed that they included the word “democratic” in their rebranding: their new name, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), would help them enter into political negotiations, where they had been excluded previously owing to their association with the PKK.

Recently tensions have been high between the United States and Turkey over the latter’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia which the former disapproved of and then subsequently removed the latter from the F-35 fighter jet program. The United States has also threatened to impose sanctions if Turkey activates the S-400 system which Erdogan has stated they have every intention of doing by April 2020.

On Monday, an American military delegation met with Turkish officials in Ankara to continue negotiations and discuss an alternative Turkish military operation which wouldn’t threaten U.S. troops stationed in the area. The U.S. is urging Turkey not to carry out its proclaimed mission.

Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and analyst.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

Spooks behind Patriot Act, drone & torture programs unite to ‘secure’ US elections, free of charge

Protest against mass surveillance © Reuters / Jonathan Ernst
By Helen Buyniski | RT | August 7, 2019

A group of former intelligence agency directors and other trustworthy cybersecurity pros has launched a charitable initiative to protect US elections against foreign interference. So who are these noble guardians of democracy?

The “US Cyberdome” claims to apply top-of-the-line cybersecurity capabilities to the country’s vulnerable election systems, motivated by nothing more than a selfless devotion to protecting democracy against “sophisticated attacks by constant and ever-evolving threats.” Stuffed with sinister ex-spooks like former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Cyberdome will keep America’s democracy safe from “purposeful attacks and exploits” and even “undue influence from enemies both foreign and domestic” – at no cost!

One might be forgiven for looking this particular gift horse in the mouth. Clapper, after all, stood in front of Congress and denied under oath that the NSA was collecting data on US citizens, an apparent act of perjury he attributed first to forgetting about the Patriot Act section used to authorize the agency’s StellarWind surveillance program and later to simple misspeaking. He has also claimed Russians are “genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor” – not exactly the kind of impartial authority one wants guarding one’s democracy. And Chertoff, a member of the infamous Atlantic Council, co-wrote both the Patriot Act and the CIA interrogation memo advising agents on the judicious use of waterboarding.

Other members of Cyberdome’s board of advisors include former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who oversaw Obama’s targeted drone assassination program and approved the killing of US citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki without due process; and former CIA director Michael Morell, another Atlantic Council member who was responsible for reviewing the “intelligence” that went into then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous United Nations speech in which he claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. A less trustworthy bunch has not been assembled on an advisory board since the Orwellian browser plugin NewsGuard was unveiled.

It’s not like Cyberdome’s tech isn’t expensive – the group was founded by Matt Barrett, who led the development of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s “Cybersecurity Framework,” a best-practices security infrastructure program that came with a price tag so hefty half the organizations that reviewed it cited cost as the primary barrier to adoption. Cyberdome accepts donations (inviting donors to “Put Your Money Where Your Democracy Is!”), but securing the nation’s voting systems to NIST standards isn’t cheap.

This, it seems, is where the advisory board comes in – with such a pedigreed array of spooks on hand, elections that don’t adopt Barrett’s vision of cybersecurity could easily experience a breach or two. Top-brass spies like Cyberdome’s board know how to spoof traffic from foreign “hackers” – a capability WikiLeaks revealed the CIA possesses in the Vault7 leaks. If they want to knock off an inconvenient presidential candidate, all they need to do is spoof a hack into the voting system from whoever the bogeyman du jour is, and voila – instant Manchurian (or Siberian) candidate.

Former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff warned when the NIST framework was unveiled in 2014 that unless Congress “really put some muscle behind it” or regulators got involved, it would be difficult to achieve widespread adoption of the “voluntary” program. Chertoff in his post-DHS career has hopped from industry to industry collecting large paychecks to consult on cybersecurity, convincing everyone from bankers to airports that the cyber-barbarians are at the gates, and only he can protect them. And Cyberdome is merely his vision writ large, with the whole election system in its sights.

The company claims its initial efforts are focused “only” on securing the 2020 presidential campaign, but its hope is to ultimately “assist all national political campaigns.” As Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday, “In the face of known, ongoing efforts by foreign powers to try to interfere in our upcoming election, US Cyberdome could not come at a more critical juncture.”

Translation? “Gee, that’s a nice democracy you’ve got there – sure would be a shame if something happened to it.”

Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator, working at RT since 2018

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment